'Living nightmare': Twyford calls for independent inquiry into Te Atatu Rd project
A request for an independent inquiry into the management of a multi-million dollar transport project has been put to Auckland Transport.
Phil Twyford, MP for Te Atatu, has put in an application to the chairman of AT, Lester Levy, on June 13 to commission an independent investigation to look into the management of the Te Atatu and Edmonton Rd corridor upgrade.
He said an independent investigation was needed to look into reasons why the project took nearly two years to be completed and whether the $30 million budget justified the "improvements".
But AT's Wally Thomas said a "comprehensive post-implementation review" was carried out for almost all large-scale projects anyway.
The communications and public affairs manager said its evaluation would then be peer-reviewed.
"He is not suggesting something that does not already happen," Thomas said.
Twyford said the Te Atatu Rd upgrade had been a "living nightmare" for local residents, businesses and motorists who used the busy route.
Thomas said AT knew the roadworks had been disruptive.
"We are very well aware of the frustrations the locals and road users have faced."
The Te Atatu Rd and Edmonton Rd corridor upgrade project began in August 2015 and involved upgrading a 1.4 kilometre stretch of one of west Auckland's busiest roads – it was expected to be completed by mid-2017.
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AT said about 35,000 vehicles used the road per day.
About $17m of the project's budget was for construction. Higgins was the lead contractor for the upgrade.
"I find it unbelievable that the project could not have been completed in a much shorter time frame," Twyford said.
He said locals had suffered through "acute disruption" for an end result that was not impressive.
AT said the work involved replacing a roundabout located at the corner of Edmonton and Te Atatu Rd with traffic lights, widening intersections to make room for dedicated turn-lanes, better synchronisation of all the traffic lights, bus advance facilities, and improved cycling and pedestrian facilities.
Thomas said road users would experience a reduction in travel times, especially for those travelling from the city to west Auckland during the evening rush hour.
Twyford said one of the greatest weaknesses of the project was that it did not have a dedicated bus lane that ran along the entire stretch of the road.
"AT spent $30m and took two years to deliver painted median strip, wider footpaths and a set of traffic lights," Twyford said.
He said AT's response to the residents' protests had been "defensive" at best.
"The Auckland Harbour Bridge took three years and the Sky Tower took four years to build and those were big projects."
Twyford said the inquiry needed to be carried out by an independent body, preferably from overseas.
"It should be an outside large infrastructure consultant, experienced in carrying out such inquires and not someone local."
But Thomas said where the reviewer came from was irrelevant.
"Whether they come from Auckland, Invercargill or Mumbai, we will get the best person for the job."
The MP said the Lincoln Rd upgrade was the "next cab off the rank" and if AT were going to use the same approach it would cause similar disruptions.
But Thomas said the Te Atatu roadworks review would provide useful insights and the recommendations would be carried forward to the Lincoln Rd project.
An AT spokesman had earlier said the agency could have done with better impression management for the project.
Twyford said the statement illustrated part of the problem.
"If they think this is a public relations issue then their understanding is flawed.
"Yes, their customer service is appalling, but this is about the months and months of disruption people have suffered."
The project has faced criticism for slow progress, poor communication and shoddy workmanship.