Dealing with Wgtn traffic on a wing and a prayer

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2011

I’ve been re-thinking.

What if, concerning the whole Basin/Option X thing, we went right back to the fundamentals of the situation and began from there? Forget flyovers and tunnels, Options A, B, X, X+, and KY(!); forget Sussex Street, Memorial Park, and even the Basin itself. What are the fundamental issues?

Warning: what follows is a speculative polemic (full of holes etc – which I’m sure our good readers will elaborate on), which in no way represents the position of the Architectural Centre…

Let’s see if we can’t simplify it down to a few easy to conceptualise elements:

1. Wellington City

We have the magnificent city of Wellington, its topographic setting, compactness, and walkability make it the envy of all New Zealand cities, and perhaps, also the coolest little capital in the world.

2. ‘Levin’

We have, north of Wellington city itself, an amorphous mass of suburbs and dormitories that provide much of the people-power that makes the City tick. It stretches from Johnsonville (I guess), to Levin (I guess).

Note: I’m calling it Levin not because I think many actually commute from that far, but because the whole Northern Corridor project, identified by the Ministry as one of 7 Roads of National Significance, is predicated on the creation of a 4-lane expressway between Levin and Wellington Airport

3. Wellington Airport

We have Wellington Airport, the third busiest airport in New Zealand.

4. SH1

We have a national highway, from Cape Reinga to Stirling Bluff, which currently runs through Wellington City to its North Island terminus at Wellington Airport.

In a nutshell, the broad regional issues are thus:

SH1 needs to facilitate the movement of people and goods from ‘Levin’ to either Wellington, or somewhere beyond (e.g. domestically or internationally by air or water). This means there are three main SH1 ‘nodes’ – The City (its CBD/Parliamentary Precinct in particular), the Port (including Ferry Terminal), and the Airport. Economic benefits are gained when this movement of people and goods between Levin and these three nodes occur as efficiently as possible.

Whichever is the last of these nodes becomes also the North Island southern terminal point of SH1. Currently this is, of course, Wellington Airport.

Now, to me at least, the fundamental issue at the Basin Reserve arises from the conflict between SH1 regional traffic with the local roads that service Wellington and its suburbs – and the perceived need to separate these for network efficiency. This is due to SH1 terminating at the Airport, which means that, because of the restrictions imposed by Wellington’s topographical setting, SH must travel through the Wellington City’s urban fabric.*

But what if it didn’t?

Traditional pie-in-the-sky solutions suggest various manifestations of undergrounding the whole stretch between the Terrace and Mt Vic tunnels as the best way of getting SH1 to its terminal point with the least negative effect on the City’s urban fabric. But what if we simply changed the order of these nodes so that Wellington City itself was the terminus – meaning that SH1 need no longer carve its way through it at all?

Think about it.

We already have the infrastructure to get goods and people up to and into the City itself (and note that its ‘infrastructural’ scale seems a little more appropriate embedded there against its backdrop of steep hills). The Wellington Urban Motorway also serves the Port. Which leaves only the airport – if that could be relocated somewhere ‘before’ (i.e. north of), Wellington, the particular conflict between regional and local traffic at the Basin Reserve (and elsewhere within Wellington City), just, well… goes away.

Consequently, the situation at the Basin Reserve becomes resolvable at the local level – without needing to involve NZTA at all. Option X may still be a desired outcome, in terms of the benefits it has for both local transport routes (including PT), as well as the urban environment more generally (especially Memorial Park).

So where do we put the airport? If I had to suggest something, Paraparaumu would seem like the best bet – although it looks as though the horse might have already bolted in terms of an expansion of the already existing Kapiti Coast Airport (given the encroaching dross of Kapitian suburbia). What about Queen Elizabeth Park (dare I say it – that battle would make the Battle of the Basin seem like a friendly ‘walk in the park’ by comparison…)?

 

*Digression:

We’ve already identified the walkable nature of this fair city, and it is pertinent to note at this point that it isn’t entirely due to the geography, even if that might well be the root cause. I would like to posit the very lack of major dedicated transport infrastructure ‘south’ of the Terrace Tunnel as an important contributing factor. Wellington’s urban fabric is not severed in the way that many other cities suffer from. It is true that we have issues with the waterfront, and Karo Drive is hardly glamorous, but we don’t have the extravagant swathes of roading equivalent to Palmerston North’s Rangitikei Street, nor do we have the tangle of raised motorways of Auckland’s ‘spaghetti junction’. We may be somewhat provincial in that sense, but it does mean that our urban fabric is still largely defined by the environment of the ‘street’ rather than that of the ‘road’.


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Posted under: Basin Reserve issues, Comment, Transport | 10 Comments »

10 Responses to “Dealing with Wgtn traffic on a wing and a prayer”

  1. Guy Says:

    Ooooh, them’s fighting words! Polemics indeed ! Go up to the ‘Pram to catch a plane? there are many people that have been advocating that. To do that, you will need a reliable piece of road – oops, there you are giving support to the Transmission Gully Highway, also known as the silliest roading proposal known to humankind since Hannibal decided to drive elephants over the Alps. I think you will find, that, like the T Gully proposal itself, support for this only comes from those who already live there. Not so much support for anyone actually in Wellington….

  2. m-d Says:

    …except, perhaps, local business leaders: who have cited the lack of a decent international airport in the region as the biggest obstacle to growth in the region.

    On transport: You forget the RoNS 4-lane expressway from Levin to Wellington…? The biggest transport issue (after RoNS sorted itself out), would be the Petone-Granada link to give Hutt industries better access to the airport (removing that traffic from the streets of Wellington as well).

    And don’t fear, Rongotai could still be a secondary domestic hub (we desperately need some competition to reduce Wgtn Airport’s monopolistic behaviour anyway), leaving Kapiti International for some serious big-jet flying. It isn’t that far away compared to other city’s airports – we have just been spoiled here in Wellington.

    It could be easily connected to the rail network as well – something not true of Rongotai it seems…

  3. Andy Says:

    Perhaps an artificial peninsula in the harbour could be built alongside the shoreline by the Ngauranga interchange. Good location, transport-wise, as the motorway and train lines go right past and near the ferry terminal. Eg, Genoa’s Cristoforo Colombo Airport, or the old Baltimore Municipal Airport. Imagine all that land freed up for development on the old Airport site if they ever did such a thing!!!

  4. bob Says:

    Terrain is a big problem with airports around Wellington.
    Kapiti airport couldn’t be much further south without terrain problems around Centennial Highway. And then there are the Tararua Ranges which prevents an runway being in the more wind favorable west-east alignment.
    Also, as it stands Wellington airport can’t extend its runway much to the north because of terrain at Newlands.
    So there really aren’t good alternative sites without ending up closer to Palmerston North than Wellington.

  5. Low Life Says:

    Just wondered if anyone else asw this new articel about the “Joy” of underpasses in the eyes of architects, http://www.australiandesignreview.com/features/25262-under-overpasses

  6. m-d Says:

    This idea still isn’t going away – even the Dom Post has allowed something alternative (to anything promoted by NZTA), to be printed in their glorious rag:
    http://www.stuff.co.nz/business/opinion-analysis/9335399/Lets-have-a-regional-international-airport

  7. m-d Says:

    Apparently not so far fetched – Mr Brownlee gave his qualified support. “It’s very exciting that someone has had an idea for a new airport”…

    Oh wait – he is referring to this: http://www.stuff.co.nz/dominion-post/news/9702360/Airport-proposed-up-in-the-hills

  8. Alan Says:

    Yes, but then he shot it down immediately, by saying that it was not an idea that was going to fly (so to speak) and that the Government would not back it.

  9. m-d Says:

    I know – my quote was purposely selective to make a wee joke at the expense of the original post…

    …nevermind…

  10. Alan Says:

    Sorry about that lad – my thick head, dialog not getting through, I actually thought that if they can make it stick – ie planes landing on top of windy mountain in Newlands – then it’s a grand plan!

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