Bulldozers and the by-election

May 6th, 2009 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

The NZ Herald’ Rudman Column is titled:

: Bulldoze and Nats blow byelection

This may be true but I would much rather the Government doesn’t pick up a seat off Labour (that it doesn’t need anyway) than spend $3 billion on a tunnel.

I also think the Government will pick up support nationally for not caving into barrel politics for the by-election and putting the national interest ahead of buying local votes.

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28 Responses to “Bulldozers and the by-election”

  1. unaha-closp (1,179 comments) says:

    This may be true but I would much rather the Government doesn’t pick up a seat off Labour (that it doesn’t need anyway) than spend $3 billion on a tunnel.

    Is the difference in price between a tunnel and a cutting really $3 billion? Does anyone know where to find a reference for this?

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  2. stephen (4,063 comments) says:

    unaha-closp ,

    Via the commenter ‘jarbury’ at the Standard:

    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Katrina-09/Business-case-for-the-Waterview-Connection.pdf

    To paraphrase (all costs in 2015 dollars)

    1) Cost of full tunnel option: $2.005 billion for 4 lanes, $2.335 billion for 6 lanes
    2) Cost of cut and partial cover options: $1.790 billion for 4 lanes, $1.813 for 6 lanes
    3) Cut and extended cover: $1.988 billion for 4 lanes, $2.205 billion for 6 lanes
    4) Open cut (no tunnel at all): $1.456 billion for 4 lanes, $1.585 billion for 6 lanes
    http://www.thestandard.org.nz/lobby-group-wants-motorways-to-drive-over-locals/

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  3. radvad (772 comments) says:

    If the Nats have half a brain their response to this sort of headline should be

    “Bulldoze and save x billion dollars”.

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  4. Ross Miller (1,706 comments) says:

    Slightly off thread but does anyone know if Winston First is standing a candidate in the bi-election?

    Is Winston First still alive?

    Or was it just a nightmare which went away when I woke up with a hangover on a certain Sunday morning in early November?

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  5. unaha-closp (1,179 comments) says:

    Stephen,

    Thanks. Standard even managed to provide a link to MoT report

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  6. bchapman (649 comments) says:

    Labour has no form on this either, they changed their minds a couple of times before deciding on a tunnel. The economics of this road are not very compelling. The super city and referendum (or lack of it) will be the narrative- hope Melissa comes up with a better answer than ‘its complicated’.

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  7. sweetd (125 comments) says:

    Has the route for the tunnel/motorway been agreed upon? Is this the agreed route that is on page six of the Business case for waterview connection.pdf

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  8. better (41 comments) says:

    “Bulldoze and maybe save 0.x billion dollars” then.

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  9. unaha-closp (1,179 comments) says:

    That $3 billion figure might have originated on a Russel Norman frogblog?

    http://blog.greens.org.nz/2009/04/29/mt-albert-and-me/

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  10. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    People are quoting me I see….

    There is no significantly cheaper and better value option than the full tunnel. For a start, the cost difference between a full tunnel option and other potential options is not nearly as big as people make it out to be. The Ministry of Transport’s review of the Waterview Connection clearly pointed that out (see page 18 of that document):
    http://www.transport.govt.nz/assets/Katrina-09/Business-case-for-the-Waterview-Connection.pdf

    To paraphrase (all costs in 2015 dollars)

    1) Cost of full tunnel option: $2.005 billion for 4 lanes, $2.335 billion for 6 lanes
    2) Cost of cut and partial cover options: $1.790 billion for 4 lanes, $1.813 for 6 lanes
    3) Cut and extended cover: $1.988 billion for 4 lanes, $2.205 billion for 6 lanes
    4) Open cut (no tunnel at all): $1.456 billion for 4 lanes, $1.585 billion for 6 lanes

    So therefore, there is no cheap option. If we compare apples with apples we see that a cut & partial cover option is only around $200 million cheap than a full tunnel option, a cut & extended cover option is around the same cost. An open cut option is $500 million cheaper, but that must be counter-balanced against the huge environmental and social costs that this option would generate. These environmental and social costs would be included in a cost benefit ratio analysis, and may well outweigh the $200-500 million in saved construction costs.

    Given the expense of completing the gap I think we need to make sure it’s value for money. I’m very very much not convinced that it is.

    What looks pretty on a map isn’t what matters in the end. There are a lot of pressing transport projects in Auckland at the moment – including the rail projects like the CBD tunnel and rail to the airport. Given peak oil uncertainty in the future (and all your biofuel & fairy dust cars won’t become affordable to the masses for decades) and the fact that motorways simply induce travel (and therefore congestion) we need to look at alternatives that can provide better value for money than this project.

    I truly believe that the benefits of this project have been overstated. The traffic modelling expects 98% of people travelling from the North Shore to the airport to use this connection, which seems truly bizarre. It also expects to remove 28,000 cars per day from the CMJ – in which case why are we about to spend $600 million on the Victoria Park Tunnel and the Newmarket Viaduct? Time savings benefits have been proven overseas to simply not exist in the longer term (as people drive further rather than travel times being shortened), yet these time savings make up 73% of the benefits of the Waterview Connection.

    There are just too many flaws.

    If we leave things for a decade, the MoT report says the cost benefit ratio will rise to 1.7 – which is a lot better than 1.15. Furthermore, if we spend that decade building a CBD rail tunnel, rail to the airport and other public transport projects we may find that we don’t need the Waterview Connection anyway. Particularly if petrol is over $3 a litre by then (which is what the NZTA and the ARC anticipate it to be in a decade [in today’s dollars] – which I think is conservative).

    Wouldn’t it be better to find that out before we spend $2.5-3 billion?

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  11. david (2,561 comments) says:

    The differences increase significantly when you build in the standard project blowout of anything done by the Public Service.

    I will also warrant that any contract let for tunnelling would have a heap of clauses covering “force majeure”, cost of operating increases, unforseen factors issues and contingencies that the numbers being bandied around here will pale into insignificance if that option is chosen.

    Also, just think of the job creation opportunities made available by replacing those demolished houses somewhere else.

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  12. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    David, NZTA have done pretty well in the last few years to have projects done within budget. Grafton Gully was under budget I think – for example. We would have certainly heard about budget blow-outs and they just havent’ happened.

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  13. alex Masterley (1,523 comments) says:

    The NZTA have been surprisingly efficient in their activities of late. I would expect that similar efficiencies would be found for the Mt albert extension in an open cut format.
    Start the Bulldozers I say.

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  14. unaha-closp (1,179 comments) says:

    Wouldn’t it be better to find that out before we spend $2.5-3 billion?

    Starting next week my neighbourhood will be on the shortest route of all airport traffic to/from Auckland, North Harbour, Orewa, Warkworth, Whangarei…Kaitaia, Cape Reinga AS WELL AS half of the South Auckland to/from CBD/Northshore commute. Not looking forward to it. Really don’t think we’d like that to be extended another 10 years.

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  15. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    How much of the tunnel price is in purchasing the TBMs? Once purchased, then are they usable for other projects, or are they pretty specialised for soil and rock type? It’d be nice to have a couple that you could use to dig tunnels all around the rest of the country, such as between Wellington and the Wairarapa, or doubling the Terrace or Mt Vic in Wellington.

    I think building any of the options to 4 lanes sounds short sighted. Adding lanes is way more expensive than builing them in at the start. I would have thought that 3 each way would be a minimum for a city the size of Auckland.

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  16. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    Unaha – it will certainly be interesting to see what traffic patterns are like once Mt Roskill SH20 is open. I have overheard NZTA traffic planners saying they really don’t have a clue themselves.

    At least we will have some idea about what the problem that needs solving is. And whether it’s worth $2.2-2.8 billion of our tax dollars.

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  17. Fairfacts Media (372 comments) says:

    Yes, we should be looking at dual-4 for the entire Western Ring Route.
    If we have a wide dual 4 motorway that people will know is always free-flowing, it will take a lot of traffic off the central motorway by acting as an Auckland bypass.
    Let us see the costs of such an option.
    I am wary of a tunnel as what if you want to widen the road later.
    Remember, Auckland is meant to have over 2 million people living there in a few decades.
    It will be wise to build sufficient road capacity for all those people.
    People will always want cars, though they may well be fuelled by something different in future.

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  18. emmess (1,432 comments) says:

    I find it very hard to believe that an above ground motorway would cost that much given that Mt Roskill and Manukau sections are costing in the vicinity of $300-$400 million each. Add in the cost of knocking over about 600 houses at $400,000 each. There is quite a bit of change from a billion. And besides looking at the map would it be better to adjust the route a bit to make it run through the parks and along the western part of Unitec’s grounds

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  19. davidp (3,587 comments) says:

    Emmess>would it be better to adjust the route a bit

    Adjust the route to run through all the bits of the electorate that have a Labour majority at their local polling places in the by-election. Any polling places that have a Green majority should be singled out for a giant 4 level stacked junction like this one: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:La_city_hwys.jpg .

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  20. peterwn (3,300 comments) says:

    When the Herald site had ‘premium’ content – this included Brian’s column. I can’t think why.

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  21. campit (467 comments) says:

    Private roading interests aren’t touching this one with a barge pole either.

    Transport officials have calculated that if the Waterview motorway extension was tolled at $2, then just 50% of motorists, or about 75,000 vehicles a day would consider it economically worthwhile to use the route instead of the existing alternative local roading network. It also follows that if Waterview were to operate as a private toll road, hapless investors would stand to lose about a billion dollars over a 30 year time frame.

    http://www.bettertransport.org.nz/2009/05/waterview-motorway-nonsense/

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  22. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Waterview : Five Questions which must be answered
    The Waterview Connection Project Tunnel Proposal

    Question One
    · Why does Transit New Zealand favour the proposed Driven Tunnel Option through Mt Albert, even though it comprehensively fails to address the amenity, mobility and efficiency requirements of the general motoring public, who will actually pay for the project, and who will make most use of it?

    Question Two
    · Why has Transit New Zealand not even considered the option of an at-grade motorway through Mt Albert, similar to that now being built through Mt Roskill, which would cost only a fraction of the Driven Tunnel Option?

    Question Three
    · Why does Transit New Zealand favour a Driven Tunnel Option which cannot readily adapt to future growth in demand by adding lanes, by adding future connections, and which closes off the option of a second harbour bridge joining Pt Chevalier to the North Shore?

    Question Four
    · Why, for such a critical link in the road network, does Transit New Zealand favour a Driven Tunnel Option which is highly vulnerable to future natural disasters,(such as earthquake, volcanos and tsunami) and is also prone to frequent closure because of accidents or breakdowns, which are likely to cause injury and death?

    Question Five
    · Why has Transit abandoned the at-grade solution, which was their preferred option up until 2000?”

    For the exansions on these questions go to: http://www.rmastudies.org.nz/index.php/issues/50-transport/139-waterview-five-questions-which-must-be-answered
    For example Q 1
    In this case Transit has targeted all its consultation resources at those comparatively few people who live immediately adjacent to the proposed tunnel. Unsurprisingly the consultation has found that the Mt Albert community has decided that the driven tunnel has the lowest impact of the three options they were presented with.

    However, this consultation has not revealed the preferences of the much larger number of people who will actually use the Waterview Ring Road when complete. The modeling indicates a two-way flow of 90,000 vehicles a day by 2026, which would be carrying at least 100,000 people a day. Surely their preferences count as much as a few score households on nearby land?

    In our opinion most of these road users would find the tunnel a much less attractive option than an at-grade open road with the normal roadside landscaping and general amenity of a modern motorway design.

    Most importantly the Waterview project will be paid for almost entirely by the motoring public of the Auckland region and we would have thought that the motoring community that “pays the piper” should surely “call much of the tune”.

    The local community possibly believes that congestion and other traffic effects will largely disappear as the through traffic disappears into a tunnel. However, the lack of tunnel capacity (having only two lanes) means that large volumes of traffic will be diverted back to the surface streets at peak hours.

    There seems to be an implicit view that motorways generate adverse effects and no benefits to amenity and landscape. In reality a well designed highway in a park like setting can provide a major open space amenity to scores of thousands of road users every day. The northern motorway beyond Albany is an excellent example. (more)

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  23. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    Owen, a few questions/points:

    1) The cost differences between an open cut option and a tunnel option are not as significant as what you’re making them out to be. Comparing 4 lane options we’re talking about a $400 million difference I think. Once you take into account the environmental and social costs of such an option it may end up having a lower BCR than the full tunnel.

    2) I don’t know where you get the delusion that the Waterview Project will be paid for by Auckland road users. Neither NZTA nor ARTA have this link as a funding priority, so therefore it will likely be paid for via a crown grant – in other words through debt and general taxation (to repay that debt).

    To quote the MoT report I link to above:

    “All the sources of funding other than Crown funding or tolling require agreement from the Board of the NZTA, Auckland Regional Transport Authority (ARTA) or both. To date, neither the Board of the NZTA nor ARTA have indicated that they view the Waterview Connection as a priority project within existing funding levels.”

    Tolling falls over from a BCR viewpoint even with a $2 toll. So we’re left with the crown grant option.

    Your favoured “open cut” (ie. screw the community) option is costed at least at $1.5 billion by NZTA (that’s only for a 4 lane option with room for 6 lanes, rather than a 6 lane option). That amount excludes financing, SH16 upgrades (which would need to be more for a 6 lane Waterview) and other additions that were added to the tunnel cost to blow it out from $1.9 billion to $2.8 billion. So I think we can add another $700 million perhaps.

    So… for a 6 lane surface option we’re looking at $2.2-2.3 billion, that will have to be funded via a crown grant. This option may well have a BCR of below 1.0 (due to higher social and environmental costs), which literally means it’s not worth it. What’s up with that?

    Oh, and one last thing, what’s with your fear of tunnels?

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  24. campit (467 comments) says:

    …and which closes off the option of a second harbour bridge joining Pt Chevalier to the North Shore?

    Now you are really getting silly.

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  25. Owen McShane (1,226 comments) says:

    Four lanes is not enough to carry the present daily traffic. Twenty thousand a day shortfall – at today’s level. That is a lot of traffic to divert around the tunnel.

    You miss the point. I was comparing the amenity concerns of the few families in the neighbourhood with the amenity gains of 100,000 plus motorists a day who contribute to all roads they use through their petrol tax and road user charges. Why do their amenities count for so little. The Johnstone tunnel northern motorway extension is a magnificent motoring experience in its own rights. The tunnel is not so much a tunnel as a portal to the sky.

    Not my fear of tunnels but the fear of tunnels by many (The Diana effect) especially if they go below sea level. This is simply bad disaster planning. See my full report for the number of blockages a day in the new Melbourne tunnel. What about their air quality?

    The compromising of the second harbour tunnel access is in the official reports. The ramping is very steep.

    And I do not propose to screw the residents. Offer them a 50-% premium over present valuation. They will line up for it. Buy up the land and then rezone it for commerce and light industry when the motorway and interchanges are complete and the Government will still make a bundle.
    Such tunnels always come in over budget because they are politically motivated.

    Part of my anger is that I designated these routes back in the sixties and the ARC lifted them in the seventies because they said the oil shock spelled the end of cars. They encouraged construction and park planting over this route and the eastern routes to make their decision expensive to undo. They just hate cars and seize every opportunity to make it more difficult to build more roads.
    Cars set us free. Just any young woman – and they soon agree that Sir Roger was NZ’s most effective feminist.

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  26. alex Masterley (1,523 comments) says:

    I’m a resident of Mt Albert.
    Given that I live in reasonably close proximity to the Balmoral Road, Sandringham Road intersection I am going to be interested to see what effect the extension has on traffic levels at that junction and the link to the Western Springs on-ramp.
    My fear is that traffic loads will increase exponentially so that there will be traffic chaos between the intersection and the on-ramp.
    Another interesting intersection will be Mt Albert Road and Sandringham road which even on a good day is a difficult intersection. More chaos there I think too.
    I think Owens suggestion that propertry owners along the route to Avondale should be offered a premium for their properties is sound and eminently sensible. I would finese it by offering prices based on say pre price drop valuations with all the other Public Works Act bits and pieces thrown in. That will get people queing up in droves to sign on the dotted line.

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  27. campit (467 comments) says:

    I was comparing the amenity concerns of the few families in the neighbourhood with the amenity gains of 100,000 plus motorists a day who contribute to all roads they use through their petrol tax and road user charges. Why do their amenities count for so little.

    The hundreds of families whose homes are in the way of an above ground motorway have the most to lose, thats why. The motorists that would use Waterview have nothing to lose. And the 15 minute time saving that the project promises won’t last anyhow. The increased capacity will just encourage more cars and longer trips.

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  28. jarbury (464 comments) says:

    If you’re the one who has the motorway planned to run through your house then sweet, that’s fine. You take the money and get out of there. Pity if you’re the one who now has it over your back-fence, or next to your kids’ school etc.

    Owen, a few more points you still ignore:

    1) The Waterview Connection will NOT be funded through petrol taxes, you know that as well as I do. There just isn’t $2.3 billion in the NLTP any time soon for it to be funded by petrol tax. ($2.3 billion is the cheapest 4 lane surface option there is by MoT’s calculations, if you want to pay a 50% premium for properties then bump that up a hundred million or so).

    2) I’m yet to know anyone who’s “scared” of the idea of a 4.5 km tunnel through Waterview. Heck, if they’re scared then they don’t have to use it! From a pure boyish “cool” point of view, it would be pretty damn impressive.

    3) Where do you get the idea that 100,000 cars would use the road “today”? How many of those trips are simply going to be induced rather than come from existing local roads?

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