Is a tunnel still a viable Southern Link alternative?
OPINION: It is heartening to see the citizens of Nelson who are seriously affected by current Southern Exit Proposals are willing to express their views publicly in the September 14 Leader.
Most, in one way or other have expressed that such proposals are not the answer, and it seems significant that the current MP for Nelson who supports this scheme of using the old Railway reserve, does not have the backing of the majority of Nelsonians.
When adding the votes for parties other than National it is clear his position is quite unpopular.
Putting politics aside, there is a need to facilitate better access to our Port for heavy industry.
There is also a need to consider that Nelson has no bypass system for through traffic, and there is a need to relieve the traffic congestion if we wish to continue growing as a tourist destination, this in addition to dealing with pollution such an increase might bring.
Two things immediately arise.
1. Heavy transport need to be kept away from all urban and tourist areas while still accessing our port.
2. Better use needs to be made of public transport.
There is a solution to both which is staring us in the face, but few see it for several reasons. This is to tunnel from Annesbrook to the top of St Vincent St. The Port Hills are not hard rock, in fact they are an ancient glacial deposit which is conglomerated.
The boring of a tunnel would present modern tunnelling machines few problems and a tunnel could be made in quite short order. With escalated estimates for the current proposals and likely overruns it is quite a viable concept cost wise.
A tunnel would achieve several things:
1. No heavy traffic on our scenic Rocks Road. This area can continue its development for tourism and as a flat cycle access it will be safer.
2. For those in Enner Glynn, they will retain their cycleway to town.
3. For the residents of Nelson South, greatly reduced traffic and pollution along Waimea Rd.
4. Heavy transport will avoid virtually all urban areas and won't get tied up in urban traffic congestion.
5. It opens up the possibility of creating a huge car park on unused land at the Airport and the setting up of a rapid public transport system from there to town.
Such a system would get both commuters into town without the hassles they have of finding expensive parking, but also serve the Airport for visitors.
It would make Nelson more tourist-friendly and would ultimately boost what is currently a place many Nelsonians avoid, the CBD.
Why are we not looking at this option? As one politician said with a wink, 'local contractors don't own a tunnelling machine'. Maybe not, but there would be a huge amount of available construction and cartage work for them all the same.
As Nelsonians we are concerned with the environment, people of Nelson South have forcibly been denied fires in their houses yet we intend to have diesel fumes, car fumes and noise increases here with the current proposal.
We are concerned with just how unstable land might become up the Railway Reserve if current proposals go ahead, one can envisage massive over-runs because of this. We are concerned that schools are affected, in particular by noise pollution.
A tunnel project reduces that negative effect to just one school, Auckland Point. It is surrounded by commerce, already copes with traffic noise, and has to accept 'progress comes at a cost'.
One simple solution would be an overhead walkway to the Trafalgar Centre carpark which becomes the children's drop-off point, this with respect to safety concerns.
On the southern tunnel exit between the two roundabouts at Annesbrook, the land is already owned by the government.
There is adequate room for a short flyover for southbound traffic, but thinking forwards such a flyover could possibly extend past the current Tahunanui Roundabout and feed straight onto the Stoke bypass. It would leave Stoke-bound traffic to still use Waimea Rd. An acceptable flow.
On a future concept: Spoil from tunnelling could be stored on the seaward side of the current airport with a view to creating a bridge and causeway to Rabbit Island which could be the site of a decent sized airport and get us on the international tourist trail. Auckland – Rotorua –Nelson –Queenstown.
Subdividing the current airport would pay a big lump towards such a scheme. Come on planners, politicians and councillors, think past the next three years that you are in term for a change. We need 50-year plans, not 10-year plans.