The building of Penlink – a direct route from Whangaparāoa Peninsula across the Weiti River to SH1 at Redvale – is to be funded by government ($830m). Currently construction is planned to begin towards the end of this year with completion by late 2026. Last month, the NZ Transport Agency/Waka Kotahi gave Hibiscus Matters an exclusive opportunity to put readers’ questions about Penlink to its Infrastructure Delivery national manager, Mark Kinvig. Similar questions have been amalgamated, and topics grouped for easier reading. Questions about tolling are dealt with in the separate story this issue.
Design, safety and 2 lanes vs 4 lanes
Q: Why is it being built as two lanes – forward planning would mean now is the cheapest time to build four. Was a dynamic lane system considered?
A: The Government funding for Penlink is for the design and construction of a two-lane state highway with a shared walking and cycling path. It will be designed for a speed of 80kph. There are no capacity reasons to consider dynamic lanes as the only capacity constraints occur at each end of Penlink, where it connects into SH1 and Whangaparāoa Road. A dynamic lane arrangement would require moveable concrete barriers, additional infrastructure and running costs would be prohibitive. We are also planning additional bus shoulder lanes as part of future proofing to support future development in the area.
Q: What emergency contingency plans are in place should there be an accident?
A: Emergency services will be able to use the shoulder lanes for any incidents along the Penlink corridor.
Q: Will traffic getting off have a continuous flow so queues don’t build up?
A: The projected traffic volumes are expected to allow reliable, safe journeys and be within the maximum capacity of the road. As with all intersections, there may be a level of congestion at each end of Penlink during morning and evening peak commuter periods. To ensure that Penlink can accommodate peak hour traffic through the intersections, we are looking into options that include multiple lanes near the Whangaparāoa intersection.
Q: Is there a finalised design and can we view it? Is there engineered proofing to add light rail? What engineering solutions are proposed to reduce/mitigate road noise particularly over the bridge sections? Also what thought has been given to minimising disruption through construction?
A: At this stage we do not have a plan for light rail. We are going through a tender process with two candidates developing their own design and construction plans. They will submit their proposals late next month and we will select a preferred candidate and form an Alliance mid-2022 to start detailed design. When the detailed design is in its final stages, we will engage with our partners, stakeholders and the community to share the draft design, details on engineering solutions for the bridge and proposed mitigation plans for noise and vibration.
Q: Is the road running alongside Spur Road, or is Spur Road being widened? At what point does it cross the river?
A: Penlink will cross the Weiti River between Duck Creek Road and south of Archers Block and run through Cedar Reserve to connect with Whangaparāoa Road. We have developed a series of design requirements that put safety first, particularly for the local road connections including the Duck Creek Road intersection. The resource consent conditions include a grade-separated connection to Duck Creek Road and we are working together with design candidates to go beyond the minimum requirements when it comes to safety. (see above, re design timeline).
Q: Given there are some very upset groups/individuals in Stillwater, does NZTA anticipate any activism/protests during construction?
A: We understand that the Stillwater community will be affected. We have been actively engaging with the community and had valuable discussions about our approach to this project, as well as providing regular updates on progress. The Stillwater community is one of the most important stakeholders and we will continue to work closely with them to minimise the impacts of construction.
Q: Is there a plan for birds and other animals whose habitat might be affected by construction?
A: We have extensive ecological and environmental planning guidelines in place. Waka Kotahi has drafted a cultural and environmental design framework to protect local habitats and birds. We are also developing a lizard management plan to ensure that any potential relocation of lizards can be done safely. Waka Kotahi has regularly engaged Mana Whenua to ensure that their principles and values are captured in our approach to environmental preservation and protection. In September 2020, we started quarterly environment group meetings to ensure that feedback and input from regional and local environment groups are captured in our environmental plans. We are proposing to use the Infrastructure Sustainability Council of Australia (ISCA) environmental rating system to help ensure Penlink achieves infrastructure sustainability through more environmentally friendly and innovative approaches. Projects in the programme like Penlink worth more than $100m aim to reduce construction emissions by at least 10 percent, with suppliers encouraged to look for ways to make even greater reductions to carbon. This will include how we use the resources and construction materials as well as lighting.
Q: I’m perplexed at the idea of walking and cycling to SH1. Where do pedestrians and cyclists go then? Cycle down East Coast Rd to Albany? That’s a long way on a dangerous high-speed road.
A: The separated shared walking and cycling path will stretch from Whangaparāoa Road to East Coast Road. It will connect to the shoulder lane on East Coast Road – it’s important people realise that while the cycling and walking path may not directly link up with other projects yet, we are building a transport network that will help accommodate mode-shift in future.