Proposals reignite link debate

KATE DAVIDSON
Last updated 12:58 11/06/2014
Gina Udell, left, and Tallis Lentz

PLAN: An impression of the shared path option for Nelson’s Rocks Rd.

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Nelson MP Nick Smith is urging the city council to move State Highway 6 from Rocks Rd to the proposed southern link route, as it considers options for developing cycle and walkways along the road.

The council's works and infrastructure committee has received a new report from staff outlining three possibilities, ranging in scope and price, to redevelop the scenic stretch of Rocks Rd from Tahunanui towards Nelson's CBD.

The committee will meet tomorrow to decide whether to accept the three concepts and their costings before they go to the full council for a decision on public consultation.

Smith said today the idea of converting Rocks Rd into a boulevard with a proper cycleway and walkway would transform the city's waterfront. However, from a financial, safety and design perspective, this vision was realistic only if the state highway was relocated to the southern link.

The three Rocks Rd concepts developed by Opus Consultants include an estimated $9 million to $13m for on-road cycle lanes and a widened footpath, an $11m to $14m estimate for a shared pathway, and the more expensive version, with a separated footpath and cycle lanes on the seaward side of the road for $33m to $47m.

All the proposals involve widening the seawall while keeping the historic chain fence, but would result in a loss of parking spaces.

Smith said the reduction in parking would be a "huge loss" for residents and those wanting to access the waterfront for recreation.

He said government funding, through the NZ Transport Agency, for highways such as Rocks Rd had been focused on the Christchurch rebuild, but he was working with Nelson Mayor Rachel Reese to lobby the transport minister and the NZTA to get the link project under way.

Smith rejected a 25-year time frame that was put on the southern link route development by a council study in 2011.

"This report about the options for cycleways and walkways helps bring this issue to a head, as it is clearly unviable to proceed with those cycleways and walkways when we have got nearly 20,000 vehicles a day on that route," he said.

A proper boulevard with a cycleway and walkway on Rocks Rd was quite feasible and not expensive if the southern link proceeded, he said.

This was because the Rocks Rd route would have restrictions on trucks, a slower speed limit and a fraction of the vehicle volumes, allowing the carriageway for the road to be reduced, creating space for cycle and walkways.

"It would also make it a far more pleasant recreational space without the 1200 trucks per day."

Works and infrastructure committee chairman Eric Davy said that because the scope of the concepts was so large, the matter was being raised at the committee meeting to recommend to the council that the proposals go out for public consultation "so the public can actually have serious input into this".

Davy said he was open-minded about the different options, but because such a large amount of money was involved, he had certain reservations, "as anyone would".

In the report, the council's transport and roading senior asset manager, Rhys Palmer, said any improvements would come with trade-offs because of the limited space on Rocks Rd. An improvement for one user would affect others.

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He advised the council to work out the key issues with the road and prioritise any improvements it wanted to see, as there would be financial consequences. The council has a debt level of $68m, and this is projected to grow.

Palmer said any costs would have to be weighed against those of other planned priority projects, such as the Trafalgar Centre and wastewater infrastructure upgrades.

"In short, the calls on council's funding are significant," the report said.

An NZTA spokesman said that as a partner in the Rocks Rd project, the authority was supportive of the concepts, but would not comment on the various options, as this could predetermine the public's input.

ROCKS RD OPTIONS

On-road cycle lanes and widened footpath $9-13 million

Shared path arrangement $11-14m

Separated footpath and cycle lanes on seaward side $33-47m

- The Nelson Mail

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