Auckland transport bill shared

IAN STEWARD AND HAMISH RUTHERFORD
Last updated 10:49 29/06/2013
Auckland transport graphic
BIG PLANS: This graphic shows $10b worth of Auckland transport projects including a second harbour crossing. Click for larger graphic

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The $10 billion bill for fixing Auckland's transport woes will come out of the country's back pocket - not just Auckland's.

Prime Minister John Key yesterday laid out plans for a new Auckland harbour tunnel, an underground City Rail Link and several improvements to sections of Auckland motorway and roading.

The tunnel - estimated to cost $4.6 billion - and the motorway improvements are all part of the State Highway network and so would be paid for by central Government.

Government would also pay half the $2.86 billion estimated for the City Rail Link which would bring together the current rail networks and create a cross-city subway.

Coupled with spending announcements for Christchurch, Key was heard to say with a chuckle ''It's certainly quite a week for spending money.''

He said the money would come from National's asset sales programme, the National Land Transport Fund, Government ''writing out a cheque'', public-private partnerships, and a contribution from Auckland Council.

''This is all about future-proofing Auckland - if we don't build it we'll be behind the curve,'' Key said.

''If we want New Zealand to be a fast growing economy it has to have the infrastructure to support that growth. If we don't spend that money now, as a country we'll end up paying for it later.''

Despite timelines being further out than Auckland mayor Len Brown originally wanted, he was exultant at the announcement.

He said it represented a ''big step forward'' for Auckland and New Zealand.''

"I'm delighted that the Government is backing Auckland's plan to meet its growth challenge," he said.

Key said work on the tunnel would begin between 2025 and 2030.

Securing the required land would begin at the end of this year after the alignment of the tunnel was finalised.

The tunnel is expected to enter the city side in the Cook St-Wellington St area and emerge on the North Shore in the Onewa Rd-Esmonde St area.

The City Rail Link would be funded for a 2020 start-work date though the Prime Minister said this could be brought forward if passenger-use and employment figures increased in the central city.

Key said the early-trigger targets were ''generous'' at half the anticipated CBD business growth.

While the tunnel would be ''future-proofed'' to include capacity for trains, ''I don't expect us to be putting rail onto the North Shore,'' he said.

Key said the Auckland Harbour Bridge was one of the "most critical transport links in the country and growth forecasts showed that demand would soon exceed capacity.''

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Despite recent strengthening, limits on the weight loading capacity of the clip-ons means heavy truck access may need to be increasingly managed from around 2021,'' he said.

"Congestion on the bridge is already a problem in the peak periods.Traffic forecasts indicate that, as the Auckland economy grows, this will increasingly spread throughout the working day.''

The two other major  roading projects Key announced -  the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI) and East-West Link joining the Southern and Southwestern motorways - would be prioritised to be delivered sooner than the 20-years initially forecast, he said.

AMETI, a plan to resolve the congestion between the industrial areas of Onehunga, Mt Wellington and East Tamaki, had the highest benefit-to-cost ratio of the plans announced, he said.

''The economic work happening out there is as big as the CBD. It's causing major congestion, it'll provide a huge amount of relief for that area - as will widening that part of the Southern Motorway.''

Minister of Transport Gerry Brownlee said there were  ''17 traffic lights through there'' - ''that's not a good connection, we've got to make that better.''

- Fairfax Media

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