Unwanted clearway remains in NZTA mix

TRACY NEAL
Last updated 13:00 06/11/2012

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The New Zealand Transport Agency said it would look at all options for ways to improve walking, cycling and vehicle access along Rocks Rd, and has acknowledged that building a clearway for traffic is not the city council's preference.

NZTA central regional director Jenny Chetwynd told the Nelson Mail yesterday that while a clearway (third lane) was identified as a potential option in last year's Nelson Arterial Traffic Study, there were no current plans to build one.

"We also recognise this is not the council's long-term preference. Nonetheless, studies like this need to cover off all options, because we need to ensure all scenarios are well tested," Ms Chetwynd said.

The Mail sought to clarify NZTA's position following last week's political furore over what might be contained in the investigation phase of the planned $6 million waterfront boulevard.

Councillors Eric Davy and Rachel Reese challenged a point in the council report which referred to NZTA's plans to include a "potential lane as an option to be included in the investigation phase of the project".

NZTA told the Mail last week the option to three-lane Rocks Rd would be considered as a part of the walkway/cycleway investigation, and that it would be seen as a lost opportunity not to explore all possibilities to improve the transport corridor along Rocks Rd.

The council eventually agreed last week to a recommendation which has set in motion the investigation phase of the planned $6m waterfront boulevard. The council added a clause that it would not consider a clearway or three-laning option in the mix for the shared pathway investigation.

A letter published in the Mail on Saturday, signed by Ms Chetwynd and Nelson Mayor Aldo Miccio, said the study was about determining how best to enhance Nelson's walking and cycling facilities. That meant thinking about the impact of the walking and cycling options on the current and future transport needs in the corridor with respect to parking, the chain fence, access to properties and on the capacity of the corridor to carry current and potential future traffic volumes.

Ms Chetwynd said yesterday there were no plans to build a clearway, and NZTA would be working closely with the council to ensure the agency understood the council's views on the highway's future. "Rocks Rd, like most transport corridors, operates under a number of constraints. As such, before we make any improvements we need to investigate how this limited space is best shared by all transport users, whether on foot, on bike or by car."

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Ms Chetwynd said that to ensure a walkway and cycleway along Rocks Rd could be accommodated in a way that works well with traffic needs, NZTA needed to consider the potential for increased traffic capacity and other things like parking. It would be keeping an open mind on the options.

She said the purpose of the study was to create a rejuvenated walking and cycling boulevard that would allow cyclists and pedestrians to safely and efficiently share Rocks Rd with traffic.

"We are working with council staff on the study, and we look forward to getting the council and community's input once the study is complete," she said.

Pending results of the study this year, $500,000 has been budgeted for the design and resource consents process in 2013-14, with an estimated $5 million construction project to begin in 2014-15.

The council had the option to withdraw from the project if it did not want to go ahead, principal adviser of transport and roading Andrew James said.

- The Nelson Mail

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