Flyover review a 'waste of money'

A waste of time and money is what some are labelling Wellington City Council's $40,000 review of traffic congestion solutions at the Basin Reserve after it found in favour of a flyover.

But Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown has called the study "a useful exercise" that provided a better understanding of the NZ Transport Agency's plan to build a $90 million flyover, 20 metres north of the cricket ground.

The review followed a dramatic development in December when councillors voted to investigate further options for the bottleneck, even as NZTA warned that withdrawing support for the flyover could jeopardise other major transport projects.

Ms Wade-Brown and transport portfolio leader Andy Foster presented the findings to the Transport Agency board yesterday.

Their study weighed the flyover option (Option A) against proposals from Auckland architect Richard Reid (Option RR) and the Architecture Centre (Option X), both of which had been previously dismissed by the agency as unworkable. Option X sent traffic underground through a cut-and-cover tunnel while Option RR focused on widening and upgrading the existing roads.

A copy of the council's findings, obtained by The Dominion Post, says the flyover "provides the broadest range of improvements". Journey times, the reliability of public transport, accessibility, and opportunities to promote cycling and walking would all improve.

Option X and Option RR were found to have little or no improvement in those areas.

Option X had the potential to hurt the traffic flow of surrounding roads, which could be "problematic" if a light rail system was ever introduced.

Option RR was found to have similar outcomes to doing nothing at all.

In terms of visual impact, a particular concern of Ms Wade-Brown, the alternatives fared little better than the flyover, which would be an impediment to views from the Basin Reserve and Ellice St.

Mr Reid declined to comment yesterday, until he had seen the council's findings for himself.

He confirmed the council had paid him for his work, but neither he nor the council would say how much of the $40,000 it ended up spending went to him.

Wellington City councillor John Morrison - who voted against the review in December - said Mr Reid's option, in particular, was "an extraordinary waste of time and money".

Greater Wellington Regional Council chairwoman Fran Wilde said the study did not need to happen in the first place.

"It would have been useful for some people, before going down this path, to have considered that NZTA did look at many options . . . and they weren't stacking up.

"I regret that time and money has been wasted . . . the sum of the antagonism has been from people who just don't like building any roads."

Ms Wade-Brown said the positive from the study was that the council had a better idea of what mitigation had to be done for the flyover.

"We're looking at an object that is going to be there for 80 to 100 years.

"It's really important to make sure that if it goes ahead, it's as good as it can be."

Despite the findings, Mr Foster said he expected the council to take a neutral stance rather than a supportive one when submissions on the flyover's resource consent were called for.

Wellington Employers' Chamber of Commerce president Richard Stone said the likelihood of progress on the flyover was good news for the local economy and Wellington's reputation.

NZTA acting board chair Patsy Reddy welcomed the council's decision.

The Dominion Post