NZTA sums up flyover argument

MICHAEL FORBES
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014

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Critics of the Basin Reserve flyover appear to have forgotten the project is about much more than just making life better for state highway traffic, the New Zealand Transport Agency says.

After four months of debate over the merits of the agency's pro posed two-lane flyover, 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve, its board of inquiry hearing is almost at an end.

The agency began summing up its argument for resource consent yesterday, answering critics of the $90 million project in the process.

The agency's lawyer, Andrew Cameron, told the four-member board he was puzzled that the hearing had ended up being the longest inquiry in New Zealand history.

"At first blush, this is surprising, because the project will not require the demolition of anyone's home or business, and it does not affect many of the natural resources that New Zealanders are well recognised as valuing."

The length of the inquiry proved Wellingtonians had a real passion for their city and a desire to "get it right", which was a desire shared by the agency, he said.

The flyover was about more than just making it easier and faster for vehicles to travel west across Wellington's CBD, he said. It would also free up room for local traffic, public transport, cyclists and pedestrians to travel around the Basin roundabout.

Having no more highway traffic on the roundabout would make the area safer and free up access to the CBD, airport, hospital and other employment areas.

Freight would also have a faster trip out of the city via the flyover. "It will provide an enduring solution to meet the reasonably foreseeable needs of future generations."

There was also the key role the project had to play as part of the road of national significance from Wellington Airport to Levin.

In the agency's eyes, the flyover was necessary to unlock the full potential of the two roading projects that will eventually bookend it - the Buckle St underpass and a second Mt Victoria tunnel.

The agency believes all of these elements will combine to shorten the westbound journey across Wellington on State Highway 1 by 7 minutes during the morning traffic peak. With that in mind, agency lawyer Nicky McIndoe asked the board not to take a "blinkered approach" by refusing to acknowledge what had come before the flyover and what would come in future.

Inquiry head, Judge Gordon Whiting, said the board was still wrestling with how much consideration it should give to the flyover's "strategic fit" with other projects.

One of the opposition groups' main arguments is that much of the congestion relief and economic benefits the agency has attributed to the flyover will actually be generated by the underpass and second tunnel.

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The hearing is expected to finish today.

- The Dominion Post

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