Iconic features under threat in Rocks Rd upgrade
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Adding a third traffic lane to Nelson's Rocks Rd is back on the radar, despite community outrage at recent attempts to add the clearway for peak-hour traffic.
The Nelson City Council's policy and planning committee was due to approve at its meeting today the terms of reference and multiparty funding agreement for the investigation stage of the Rocks Rd cycleway and walkway.
The trade-off for the estimated $6 million boulevard on the state highway that runs around the Nelson waterfront could be the additional lane for traffic, but also the removal of the historic Rocks Rd chains and the loss of the building occupied by the Plant & Food Research Unit.
NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) state highways operations manager Mark Owen told the Nelson Mail ahead of today's meeting that the option to three-lane Rocks Rd would be considered as a part of the walkway/cycleway investigation, but no decision had been made on a preferred option.
"It would be seen as a lost opportunity not to explore all possibilities to improve the transport corridor along Rocks Rd. Nelson City Council and NZTA will be working closely together on the investigation, and the final scheme report will be taken back to council," Mr Owen said.
Nelson city would be expected to contribute $1.3m towards the shared pathway, which is considered the flagship project of the planned walk/cycle/schools package for the wider city. It was included after the announcement in August that the city has secured its long-awaited $21m regional transport funding entitlement.
Funding remains subject to a number of criteria, including agreement between the council and NZTA on the terms of reference.
If approved today, the $220,000 investigation stage would begin.
It would take into account a number of factors, including the response from the community, assessment of the heritage value of the Rocks Rd chains, analysis of the seawall to determine whether parts of it could take additional loading, and assessment of current parking and future demand along the highway, with a strategy to provide for future growth in demand.
The Rocks Rd chains have a Category 1 heritage listing, but the council said they did not comply with current building regulations.
People had fallen through the chains when they were meant to act as a safety barrier, the council said.
Policy and planning co-portfolio holder, Councillor Kate Fulton, said ahead of today's meeting it was more likely that the chains would be shifted rather than removed, but it was too early to say.
Illustrations showing the scope of the project indicate that the proposed shared path around the council-owned building currently occupied by Plant & Food's seafood research unit would be temporary, as the intention would be to locate the shared path "through the property once the lease ends".
City council executive manager of network services Alec Louverdis said the current tenant had a right of renewal lease which was due in 2017, which would take it through to 2026.
Ms Fulton doubted there would ever be a third lane along Rocks Rd, but said she she appreciated NZTA's desire to keep the option open, as indicated in the Arterial Traffic Study.
The council-driven study, completed last year with input from independent advisers, recommended keeping the Rocks Rd peak-hour clearways and southern transport corridor options open. Based on the weighting and analysis of each option, the council considered it best to leave only the southern transport corridor option for the future.
Ms Fulton said that because the community had asked for more cycleways and walkways, she did not predict a fight over plans for the boulevard. "At the end of the day, it's NZTA that has control of the road - it's out of the council's hands."
Pending the results of the investigation phase, $500,000 has been budgeted for the design and resource consents process in 2013-14, with an estimated $5m construction project to begin in 2014-15.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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