ARC Debates Puhoi Cost

The NZTA today tried to convince ARC councillors of the worth of its Puhoi to Wllsford SH1 plans.
But NZTA regional director Wayne McDonald told them a cost benefit analysis had yet to be done but was ‘next.”
The council’s transport and urban development committee later noted and conveyed its concerns “with regard to the cost implications of state highway duplication, especially in absence of a cost benefit analysis and cost of capital considerations, compared with other modes.”
The highway was famously dubbed a multi-million dollar highway by the ARC Chair Mike Lee, who told the transport and urban development committee last month he was not opposed to actual urgent safety improvements in respect to the development.
Mr Lee was not present at today’s monthly meeting, as he is in China on holiday.
The full council will make its final decision on a response to the NZTA.
Councillor Joel Cayford said he wanted to be assured the assessment covered the benefits or detriments to North Shore people and noted the present congestion for North Shore residents coming into the city on SH1 in the mornings.
Councillor Judith Bassett said she was delighted with the NZTA plan as driving north was “hideous” and her only concern was how long it would take to build it as it was needed now.
Councillor Sandra Coney said she would like to see more integration with rail and road freight and said motorists encountering heavy road freight on such routes found it unattractive.
“I wouldn’t want to see you building just a freight highway,”she told Mr McDonald.
Acting chair, Paul Walbran said he supported council members’ misgivings about the overall project but that was a debate needed with the  government.
He did welcome Mr McDonald’s support during his presentation for the council’s regional growth strategy.
NZTA plans for the highway have as its “key principles”:
  • When completed, the new highway will be “offline” from the existing SH1.
  • There will be access points at Warkworth and Wellsford.
  • The new highway will pass Warkworth to the west and Wellsford to the east.

Mr McDonald told the committee that present daily use of SH1 north saw:

  • 16,500 vehicles Puhoi and Warkworth
  • 10,500 Warkwoth to Wellsford
  • 1000 heavy commercial vehicles between Auckland and Northland

He said the percentage of freight carried north was 67% by road, 2% by rail and 31% coastal.

Mr McDonald gave as reasons why a new highway was needed and not an upgrade as being:

  • It results in a safer more efficient highway
  • It provides an alternative route
  • It has smoother curves
  • It has easier grades
  • There would be less disruption during the construction
  • It has the ability to stage the project
  • It can maintain the current private access

The committee decided that:

  • The comitment expressed by Mr McDonald to support the regional growth strategy was acknowledged and supported
  • The committee notes and conveys its concerns with regard to the cost implications of state highway duplication, especially in the absence of a cost-benefit analysis and cost of capital considerations, compared with other modes
  • The committee notes the significant construction and cost risks associated with any offline motorway
  • The committee notes the potential for the new road to increase pressure for development in areas where no growth is planned
  • The committee notes concerns over impacts of the new motorways on landscapes, including outstanding natural landscapes, natural values, cultural heritage sites, the coastal marine area and growth pressures
  • The committee submit to NZTA that:
  1. The project should focus on cost effective solutions to safety and reliability
  2. Cost effectiveness should be a key principle for the project
  • The committee believed that a requirement for the project to be offline should not be a key principle
  • The project should identify staging options, especially for cost effective remedies to safety and congestion issues
  • That the road should be designed in such a way that it supports managing growth in the form that is required by the Regional Growth Strategy and Regional Policy Statement. The ARC considers that this can best be achieved by not providing access to the new road at locations where no growth is planned. This would mean that if  the new road should be offline, then the ARC supports limiting access to the new road to Warkworth and Wellsford only.
  • The ARC supports a bypass to the west of Warkworth.
  • The committee notes the need to take a holistic view of road and rail freight should be encouraged
  • The commitete asks that the traffic effects on existing uses of SH1 be accessed
The ARC’s general manager, transport, John Smith told the committee:
NZTA’s rationale for adopting the offline principle is that this allows smoother curves, easier grades and will cause less disruption and will result in a safer, more efficient road.
“This is true, but applies to almost all roading projects.  Offline solutions are generally very costly however, particular when being developed through difficult terrain such as that between Puhoi and Wellsford.
“It is generally the case that upgrades of existing roads can achieve worthwhile improvements in safety and reliability at lower cost.  The risk in developing only offline options without regard to cost effectiveness in that the resulting project will be very expensive and will either tie up funds that are needed for other projects or will be unaffordable and not proceed at all.
“It is considered that upgrade of the existing road (with possibly some offline components) should remain part of the investigation and that the form of the best route should be the outcome of investigations and alignments, and not be specified before investigations begin.”

Only two access points are proposed, at Warkworth and Wellsford.  Mr Smith said both these towns are listed as growth centres in the ARC Regional Growth Strategy.  Warkworth is listed as a high density centre and as a future urban area in Schedule 1 of Plan Change 6 to the Regional Policy Statement.  Wellsford and Snells/Algies are listed as future urban areas in Plan Change 6.  Currently weekday traffic volumes drop by around 25% at Warkworth and by about 20% at Wellsford, showing that both centres generate considerable demand for access to the state highway.
He said that with only 2 access points, traffic for Waiwera, Puhoi, Mahurangi West, Moirs Hill, Cowan bay and Wayby would need to use the existing state highway.  If additional access points were provided, this would make these locations more readily
While ARC and Rodney District Council plan for additional development at Warkworth, Wellsford and Snells/Algies, he said there are concerns that a major new road would accelerate growth in these areas beyond what can be effectively managed, would generate pressure for additional areas to be opened up for development, and would generate increased demand for countryside living.
Restricting the new road to only 2 access points, and locating those access points where growth is already planned, would guide the growth into the planned areas and will help to manage the growth in pressure for further development, Mr Smith said.
He recommended that the ARC support a bypass to the west of Warkworth.A bypass to the west of Warkworth would be shorter than a bypass to the east. It would therefore deliver greater traffic benefits and would cost less.  A bypass to the east would encroach on coastal areas and would need to cross the Maharangi Estuary.
Bypasses to either the west or the east of Wellsford would be of similar length and would deliver similar traffic benefits for similar costs, he said.
A bypass to the east of Wellsford would provide better accessibility to the growing Mangawhai area than a bypass to the west, but would not connect directly to SH 16.  The importance of SH16 as an alternative connection to Auckland is likely to decrease however since the improvements to SH1 will provide greater capacity and much better reliability than the existing SH1.  It is considered that on balance the improved accessibility to Mangawhai of an eastern bypass would provide greater benefits than the direct connection to SH16 which a western bypass would provide.




  1. Luke says:

    How can they say a benefit of the holiday highway is that it can be staged? With no access points between Puhoi and Warkworth looks like they will have all 15km built at once. This means it will decade nearly a decade until more the benefits are seen.
    I do feel for NZTA some time though, having to come up with all these lame excuses just because of their stubborn minister.

  2. Matt L says:

    I wonder if they are doing the proper BCR based on toll amounts. Using the Orewa to Puhoi Rd as a benchmark that means Puhoi to Warkworth would be about $7 with Warkworth to Wellsford about $5. Combined with the existing $2 it means $14 to travel north for a standard car and twice that for a truck, I think that figure would turn people off using the new road.

  3. DanC says:

    What a joke. 2% of freight is carried by rail. That needs to be addressed. Secondly create a by pass road around Warkworth from Valeria close to Kaipara Flats Road. It’s huge money to build this road. More investment needs to be in rail. Freight and passenger services.

  4. Matthew says:

    @ Matt L

    Yes that sounds quite expensive, however reminds of a time I was using the French tolled motorways. When I came to pay, I was looking around for loose change, but then I saw the toll - 28 Euros! The French motorways seem to be pretty well used in any case.

  5. jon r says:

    What a joke. They say 1000 heavy commercial vehicles use the road a day - mis using the truth.

    According to the data from the NZTA telemetry sites, that is all vehicles 3.5 tonnes or more.

    What percentage of those 1000 are really heavy as in 30 or 44 tonne trucks? A 3.5 tonne vehicle is not a large truck.

  6. karl says:

    Jon r, I understand that is the classification benchmark though - and it is fair enough in that sense that a 3.5 ton or above vehicle is very unlikely to be a private car/vehicles.

    “Yes that sounds quite expensive, however reminds of a time I was using the French tolled motorways. When I came to pay, I was looking around for loose change, but then I saw the toll – 28 Euros! The French motorways seem to be pretty well used in any case.”

    Normally, there are few non-tolled alternative available there though, isn’t that right? In this case, we would have a perfectly okay (if somewhat more risky) state highway alternative that will then see less traffic (i.e. apart from holiday season, it would probably be free running 99% of the time, so really discourage use of any expensive toll road).


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