The Architectural Centre, having just put in a submission on the future of Wellington in the year 2040, where we had the pleasure of looking at the city as a whole, are of the opinion that in 30 years time the city will be very different from what we have now. Traffic needs of the city, currently throttling it to death in various places, need to be reassessed – and with a free mind.
Things like the Basin Reserve for instance, may not need to be continuously ringed with roads for traffic. Indeed, we are most concerned that the Basin Reserve is currently reserved mainly for use as a giant traffic roundabout – there are better uses for a Basin than that, and there are certainly better roundabouts. But what if the traffic was to go elsewere? While the traffic planners at Opus and the NZTA are crying “OverPass”, what if the traffic was to go in a tunnel?
Like just about any idea in the world, someone else has thought of it all before. The picture above, by G E Humphries in 1907 “Basin Reserve Improvement Scheme Shewing Level Raised to Allow a SubWay beneath – Providing for Markets, Stores, GrandStand, Pavilion, Miniature Shooting Gallery etc” has thoughtfully allowed a railway system chugging along beneath the Reserve, and of course the current traffic overpass had not been thought of at that stage. There are a few differences from today’s reality – the grandstand is on the other side of the Reserve, the memorial to Wakefield (the little domed structure erected at great expense by the people of Wellington over 100 years ago) is on Buckle St, and the Mt Vic tunnel has not yet been bored through the mountain. (Published in Basin Reserve by Don Neely and Joseph Romanos, pub Canterbury University Press 2003).
But overall, it is still trying to do the sort of thing we are doing now in an effort to solve its basic dilemma: a North-South local flow vs an East-West flow, and how to avoid a clash. There have been other suggestions: only a few decades ago, this was the proposal: bugger the Basin Reserve and put a large chunk of cloverleaf there instead:
I think we can collectively say that we are very glad that particular scheme didn’t go ahead now! The Basin Reserve is effectively ruined for all time. Or are there people out there that still think this is a good idea?
In case you’re living under a rock and haven’t seen the paper over the last few days, the NZ Government Transport agency, known as NZTA, is proposing once more something along the lines of this – or at least a fair chunk of it. The cloverleaf style overpass has not been included – indeed, nothing has been shown to the Wellington public yet, although a number of possible schemes already exist. Some people are very unhappy about the proposals, like Save the Basin, an offshoot from the Mt Victoria Residents Association. Meanwhile, the agency’s Wellington state highways manager, Rob Whight, said the project team was still working on developing plans for north of the cricket ground but public consultation on options was expected to be asked for by the end of February.
“We appreciate there is significant interest in the Basin Reserve improvements [but we] ask them to be patient while we prepare well considered improvement concepts to seek their feedback on.”
These underground tunnels depicted here are one way, and should be looked at pronto, we believe. And there are other ways as well, as the Eye of the Fish has helpfully pointed out in one of its brilliant, if smart alec postings….