Preference for flyover defended

22:43, Feb 10 2014

The New Zealand Transport Agency has been forced to defend how much consideration it gave to Option X before moving ahead with the Basin flyover.

This morning lawyer Philip Milne, representing the Architecture Centre and Newtown Residents Association, questioned the flyover's project manager Selwyn Blackmore at length about why Option X was dismissed and whether the agency gave it proper consideration.

Option X was put forward by the Architecture Centre as an alternative option, and involved a cut-and-cover tunnel from Sussex St to Taranaki St, and pedestrian bridges at the Sussex/Buckle St intersection.

NZTA has put the potential cost of the alternative at up to $255 million, compared to the $90m flyover 20 metres north of the Basin Reserve proposed by the agency.

A four-person board of inquiry is in week two of an eight-week hearing to consider resource consent for the flyover.

While cross-examining Mr Blackmore this morning, Mr Milne questioned whether potential cost and "embarrassment" at back tracking had stopped the agency from ditching the flyover in favour of Option X.

"It would have been incredibly difficult and expensive for the agency to have done a U-turn and say no, we're going to hit the pause button," Mr Milne said, pointing out that Option X was only rejected in March 2013.

Mr Milne, acknowledging that the Architecture Centre weren't roading experts, also questioned whether the agency made a "genuine attempt" to devlop option X, in the same way it would other options.

"There were a number of other design matters that could have been addressed ... just as has been done with [the flyover]," Mr Milne said.

But Mr Blackmore insisted the option was carefully considered, and said it was not particularly new because it was very similar to an option considered earlier in the process.

If another option had proved to be better, the agency would have pursued it, and it had considered alternatives right up to the lodgement of the resource consent application, he said.

In March 2013 another report looking at option x and another suggestion from architect Richard Reid was prepared at the request of the Wellington City Council.

"There was no decision to make, because the report didn't recommend option X or option RR [Richard Reid]."

Option X had "Different visual effects", but was very similar to an option the agency had already carefully considered, he said.

"From a transport respect it was very similar."

The hearing continues this afternoon.


The Dominion Post