Monday, June 25, 2012

Are Engineers & NZTA collaborating to 'gold-plate' roading projects?

Today a constituent complained to me about the $4.5M cost of removing a roundabout in front to Hamilton's 'The Base' and replacing it with a full traffic-signalled intersection. His complaint is quite justified, and I replied....
   In this case, both myself and one or two other Councillors suggested 'ramp metering' on the current roundabout, rather than the full, expensive signalised intersection. However, our traffic engineers, in their wisdom, have agreed with    NZTA's traffic engineers (who have masses of experience and never cock anything up) that the only solution is the gold-plated one.
   Interestingly, a number of people, including Councillors, raised the need for a signalised intersection here right back near the start of The Base – however the collected wisdom of the traffic engineers said this was not necessary at the time (when it would have been both cheaper and more affordable). 
   On our Council, with its current structures (including the disbanding the Transport & Infrastructure Committees), we do not usually have the expertise or focus to convince the majority of Councillors that the engineers are not necessarily right. An added complication is that on a number of occasions, NZTA has said to us – so our staff report – that their subsidy for roading works (I was going to say 'transport works' but remembered roads are the only part of transport NZTA funds nowdays) is only available if HCC agrees to go with the gold-plated solution. The general line from NZTA is "Have we got a deal for you!" or something similar.
   Needless to say, Councillors who are not so familiar with transport issues (which is most of us now, under the current structure) feel stuck between a rock and a hard place, and end up agreeing to go with NZTA and our traffic engineers, with what they consider to be the only deal on the table.
   You might be interested to know that it is not just The Base intersection where we are contemplating spending megabucks to achieve a gold-plated roading solution, when something lesser would do, at least for some time:
  • Extension of Wairere Drive south from Ruakura Rd to Cobham Drive – 3 or more years ahead of schedule: for 12 years Council has had a policy that we don't support completing the ring road (this is the last section) until the Hamilton Bypass on the Expressway is completed – because we don't want Wairere Drive, an internal city road designed for city traffic – to be used as a de factor state highway for through traffic (like Avalon Drive was for many years). Our staff tell us that NZTA is refusing to guarantee the normal subsidy for this stretch of the road unless we start it immediately the section through to Ruakura Rd is completed (next year) - this is at least 3 years ahead of schedule.
  • 4-laning of Wairere Drive from River Rd to Resolution Drive – this may become necessary when Resolution Drive is hooked up to the Expressway via exit and entry ramps near Horsham Downs (and a significant increase in traffic entering the city from the north happens). But this work (which Council may have to pay towards) is not in our 10 year plan for construction at all, yet staff are planning to expand Wairere Drive in this area next year, and have told me that NZTA have agreed to provide their subsidy for other parts of Wairere Drive only on the basis that this work is part of the deal. With the new traffic lights being installed at River Rd/Wairere Dr intersection, it is not necessary at this stage to expand the road east of there.

But then who am I to question the engineers?

No comments:

Post a Comment