Brace yourselves, motorists of Mahurangi – the redesign of the Hill Street intersection is back on the drawing board.
After decades of debate, designs, re-designs, delays and even a delegation to Wellington, transport advocates believed a plan was finally in place to deliver the much-needed improvements when the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway opened.
However, Roger Williams and Dave Stott told a Warkworth Area Liaison Group meeting on July 6 that Auckland Transport had come up with a new ‘value engineering’ design to cut costs.
They said that if it were to go ahead, the new option would not solve any of Hill Street’s long-standing congestion and safety issues, and would be a “total waste of time and money”.
“Roads around the two intersections will be reduced to one lane (rather than two), slip lanes have been removed, Kowhai Park will exit onto the roundabout instead of onto the existing State Highway 1, and there is no provision anymore for a cycleway/pedestrian path on Sandspit Road,” they said.
“For all the disruption that it will entail, it won’t be worth doing at all. There will be a lot of pain for no gain.”
Stott went on to say that if AT could not be persuaded, then it would be time for all community groups in the area to put pressure on AT’s chief executive and board of directors.
Williams and Stott said they learned of the value engineering design during an online meeting with AT representatives earlier this month.
They say the option continues to under-estimate traffic volumes through the intersection after the link road and motorway open.
The liaison group meeting was told that AT is using figures of 2.14 people per household when the actual figure is 2.74. This represents a 28 per cent error, which would affect traffic volume estimates hugely, they said.
“It also does not take into account the impact of housing intensification.”
While all parties agree that the intersection needs to be fixed, it is the ‘when, how and how much to spend’ that remain the sticking points.
AT says it has started the next stage of the project – to undertake the pre-implementation phase, which includes detailed design, seeking the required consents and property requirements, and preparing construction tender documentation.
It did not respond to questions about the value engineering design, why it was being pursued and how it differed from the business case design.
“The detailed design will be completed toward the end of this year,” a spokesperson said.
“Work to date has centred on reviewing Waka Kotahi’s Single Stage Business Case recommended option design to address key issues around impacts to Kowhai Park, updating the traffic modelling, and to ensure the project can be delivered within the funding allocation of $18.8 million in the Regional Land Transport Plan given the rising costs of construction, the need to minimise the impact to Kowhai Park and the need to enhance provisions for safe walking and cycling facilities.
“AT is in the early stages of engaging with key stakeholders and gathering additional traffic modelling material before making an updated design option public. Final costings are not yet available.”
Stott said he and Williams hoped to review the working plans for the business case design, and to get a private contractor to put a figure on what they thought it would cost. This had been done on the Matakana link road design, which was initially deemed too expensive to build.
“We were able to show that the preferred design could be constructed a lot cheaper than the estimate and this enabled the best option to be chosen and used. Perhaps a similar thing can be achieved with the business case design for Hill Street.”
A further meeting with AT is being planned.