Second tunnel 'better than flyover'

SECOND TUNNEL PROPOSED: Architect Richard Reid near the Basin Reserve.
SECOND TUNNEL PROPOSED: Architect Richard Reid near the Basin Reserve.

Yet another alternative to the controversial Basin Reserve flyover has emerged from the shadows, prompting a special meeting of Wellington City Council tonight.

Auckland architect Richard Reid has drafted a solution to traffic congestion around the historic cricket ground that relies on construction of a second Mt Victoria tunnel rather than the $90 million flyover favoured by the NZ Transport Agency.

"The flyover isn't the key game-changer here. A second Mt Victoria tunnel is," he said.

Reid, whose redesigns have been incorporated into three major state highway projects in Auckland, said the roads leading traffic to the Basin were its main problem, not the section of State Highway 1 that runs around it.

A second tunnel, coupled with the trenching of Buckle St and slight changes to the road around the Basin, would reduce journey time by as much as the transport agency claimed a flyover would, he said.

Exact details of his plans will not be clear until tonight, because Reid wants to make sure nobody else can take advantage of his ideas.

But he said they involved tweaking the existing road to eliminate its "conflict points", where traffic entering the roundabout forced a change in the number of lanes. It would cost the agency only "an extra lick of paint and some tarseal" in addition to the $80m "cut and cover" trench beneath Buckle St and the second Mt Victoria tunnel it is already planning.

The Reid plan would also involve less property acquisition than the flyover proposal, he said.

"The plan doesn't go anywhere near St Joseph's Church."

Transport Agency Wellington state highways manager Rod James said Reid had offered his proposal to the agency. But from what he understood of the plan, it did not provide the separation of north-south and east-west traffic that the Ngauranga to Airport Corridor Plan identified as a solution to the Basin's woes.

The second Mt Victoria tunnel would not work without a flyover, he said. Large volumes of traffic would be arriving at the Basin with nowhere to go.

At tonight's extraordinary meeting, city councillors will debate whether to approach Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and the NZTA board to convey their preference for something other than a flyover.

Wellington Mayor Celia Wade-Brown said the agency's decision in August to seek resource consent for the flyover had not sat well with some councillors, even after more detailed plans of the bridge design and the green space beneath it were published last month.

"The majority of councillors are not convinced of its attractiveness."

Councillor Justin Lester called the meeting after seeing the Reid plan. He said the council would also vote to start work on a submission opposing resource consent for the flyover.

"We don't like the design, we don't like the location of it in front of the Basin Reserve, and we would prefer that they [NZTA] built something else."


July 2011: NZTA seeks public feedback on two proposals for a flyover north of the Basin Reserve, one sitting just 20 metres from the ground, at a cost of $75m, and the other 65 metres away, costing $90m. They are referred to as Options A and B.

Sept 2011: A group of local architects floats the alternative idea of a cut-and-cover tunnel from Sussex St to Taranaki St, and pedestrian bridges at the Sussex-Buckle St intersection, for up to $175m. It becomes known as Option X.

Oct 2011: City council tells NZTA it favours Option A but it prefers a tunnel beside the Basin. Greater Wellington Regional Council supports Option A.

Aug 2012: NZTA announces Option A, now costing $90m, as its preferred solution, dismissing Option X and a tunnel beside the Basin, known as Option F, as unworkable. The decision comes not long after government funding is approved for the trenching of Buckle St in order to create a National War Memorial Park.

Nov 2012: Regional council votes 7-6 to reopen debate over Option X in the wake of Buckle St receiving funding.

The motion goes nowhere, however, after closed-door talks with the agency.

Dec 2012: Independent architect Richard Reid approaches the city council with a proposal to modify the existing road around the Basin.

Wellington City Council calls an extraordinary meeting to discuss pursuing alternatives to the flyover.

The Dominion Post