Flyover debate reopened over 'option X'

Debate over the Basin Reserve flyover has been reignited, with Greater Wellington Regional Council calling for a "cut and cover" option to be reassessed.

The council has agreed to reopen discussions about options for the much-debated route, despite the New Zealand Transport Agency announcing it had chosen a preferred option earlier this year.

Consent applications will be lodged early next year, followed by formal public consultation and hearings.

Yesterday, a meeting of the council voted 7 to 6 in favour of a motion by councillor Paul Bruce, which stated that "in light of the decision to place Buckle St in a tunnel, the council resolves that Greater Wellington should work with NZTA and [Wellington City Council] to ensure that the full range of options for freeing up public transport movements through the Basin Reserve are on the table".

Speaking after the vote, Mr Bruce said the aim was to reopen debate because the approval of tunnelling at the National War Memorial Park meant the unofficial "option X" mooted by architects was more viable.

But NZTA says it identified the best option after lengthy consultation, and the memorial park makes no difference to the viability of option X.

NZTA consulted on two flyover options - costing $90 million and $105m - to separate state highway traffic from local traffic as part of the Ngauranga-to-airport road of national significance.

But an unofficial "option X" for a cut-and-cover tunnel from Sussex St to Taranaki St, and pedestrian bridges at the Sussex/Buckle St intersection, was proposed by the Architecture Centre, at a cost of up to $175m.

In August, NZTA announced it had chosen the $90m flyover - a one-way east-to-west bridge 20 metres north of the historic cricket ground linking Paterson St to Buckle St.

After tunnelling at the memorial park was announced, the Architecture Centre said its option should be revisited, as the park plan significantly dropped the cost of option X to about $80m.

Yesterday, Mr Bruce said the option should be reviewed to ensure the best choice was made.

"We should just have an open mind about it . . . what I'm asking is that we actually relook at it and how we can better achieve the transport objectives."

Council chairwoman Fran Wilde voted against the motion, because she believed the decision had already been made. However, she said: "I'm happy to have another shot if there's another good idea."

Wellington City Council transport portfolio leader Andy Foster said option X still needed some work to solve what some had called a "spaghetti junction" of roads going in different directions at the northern end of the Basin.

But if that could be done, then it was worth further consideration.

"It's got more positives than negatives compared to the flyover."

NZTA said it had thoroughly assessed all the options, and its chosen one was "the most effective, feasible and affordable".

It would be "inappropriate" to comment on the regional council motion until the meaning was fully understood, Wellington state highways manager Rod James said.

Contact Katie Chapman
Wellington reporter
Twitter: @katiechapman28

The Dominion Post