Feedback on the NZTA, Northern Pathway landing proposals 4 September 2019
I generally support NZTA proposals to build a government funded 5-meter-wide pathway attached to the eastern harbour bridge piers, enabling unrestricted, safe, mode separated, free passage. However, after years of delay the Auckland Harbour Bridge was finally constructed with essential approach roads, and correspondingly the new NZTA northern pathway design must include integral connections (with facilities at scale) to meet effective, long-term alternative transport objectives.
Taking account of the December 2016 Environment Court Final Decision of presiding Judge Newhook and Conditions of Consent for Skypath, particularly concerning operational hours, visitor numbers, mitigation measures and the “Living Document review process”, the proposed NZTA northern landings would not uphold the Environment Court ruling. Consequently, new Northern Landing resource consents would be required for either of the pathway landing proposals to proceed.
1.1 Lifts and Stairs
The lifts and stairs proposed for north and south landings are impractical for the pathway to meet the project’s stated outcomes of an effective, alternative transport mode for crossing Auckland Harbour. Lifts and stairs would create a bottleneck where safe and rapid egress is required, especially during daily peak periods. This proposal should be dropped from serious consideration, except perhaps for a modified emergency exit purpose.
The redundant Skypath clippon design and northern landing were defective and failed to meet building codes and operational requirements for public infrastructure on this scale. Seamless connections and toilets were absent in the old design which the new design replicates.
Therefore, the proposed NZTA northern landing options are by extension, also deficient. For the pathway to be an effective, long-term multi modal alternative to crossing the harbour by vehicle, it must be contiguous north and south, with facilities appropriate to scale. The optimum way of achieving this is by seamlessly continuing the pathway north and south to suitable connections and facilities.
A possible solution is that the pathway would continue beside the bridge approach ramp and northern viaduct to land on the grass knoll beside the Sulphur Beach dingy lockers. Pedestrians and dogs then use the existing toll booth tunnel under the northern motorway 500 meters to the north, while cyclists and other transport modes ride Sulphur Beach Rd, merging with pedestrians outside the Police Depot. The proposed shared path for pedestrians, cyclists, scooters, dogs, wheelchairs, skateboards and cars on narrow Sulphur Beach Rd ignores significant risk of accident. Onward connections are described in 1.2.3 Seapath.
The pathway would rise between 2-4 meters beside and above the bridge approach vehicular deck, starting in vicinity of 1 Princes Street, traversing 80 meters at this height before descending back to vehicular deck level, outside the Bridge Authority building at 9 Princes St and then grading down the viaduct to land on the grass knoll beside the dingy lockers on Sulphur Beach Reserve.
The elevated section floor and walls could be constructed with translucent glass with transparent sound barriers between the bridge deck and elevated pathway, thus optimising resident privacy, noise reduction and light passage to properties. After negotiation of air rights with property owners, this raised pathway will be an iconic beacon that daily encourages every passing motorist to change transport mode.
The resource consent could include a short ramp or stair facility for emergency exit and access for registered card holders (perhaps partly in-lieu of air rights for example) to be installed at the northern end of the elevated section outside the Bridge Authority building at 9 Princes St.
The tunnel entrance and walls could be refurbished and lined with a display of Shoal Bay boat building history, the Auckland Harbour Bridge development over the years and possible future Additional Waitemata Harbour Connections. There is scope to provide bus access to this destination by utilising the overly large and wasted Stafford Rd off ramp space.
A link bridge above Westhaven Drive, seamlessly connecting the Harbour Bridge Pathway to the Westhaven pathway would be a superior connection that avoids pedestrians, dogs, wheelchairs, scooters, skateboards and cyclists crossing a complicated, dangerous roundabout intersection. However, the NZTA proposed southern landing ramp would be expedient because it probably meets existing resource consent requirements but could be made safer by crossing Westhaven Drive further west of the roundabout.
The Seapath business case (which would remove significant capital funds from higher priority public spending) to construct a new pathway beside the northern motorway, where alternative inland routes currently exist would be a mistake and waste of public money. The Northern Pathway should make use of existing infrastructure as much as possible to maximise ROI and optimise patronage close to where people live, work, play and school, away from the increasingly flood prone, hostile motorway, wasteland. The Northcote Safe Cycle Route (NSCR), the Northcote Bridges currently under construction (which connect to stage 2 of the Northern Pathway) and re-purposing Onepoto Domain connections achieve these outcomes.
As per para 1.2.1 above, cyclists, e-scooters, pedestrians and dogs merge at the Northern Motorway tollbooth tunnel exit from where a short cut and cover pathway in front of the Police Depot passes under a raised traffic calming off ramp beside Stafford Park. Northern Pathway users can join the Queen St section of the NSCR at several locations or, continue along a new pathway located between Stafford Park and the Onewa Rd off ramp, passing underneath Onewa Rd bridge to emerge at Onepoto Domain. Despite rising sea levels it is possible to construct a short pathway under Onewa bridge protected from high tides.
Four further routes are available at Onepoto Domain to take pedestrians, scooters and cyclists further north and west through Northcote, leading to Milford and Takapuna via the NSCR and the Northcote Road bridges, currently being built.
These routes maximise use of local feeder roads, pavements and cycle paths, close to residential communities, businesses and schools and away from the hostile, motorway wasteland. The cost of doubling up on these connections is substantially less than building a motorway Seapath from Stafford Park to Esmonde Road.
Toilet facilities (that should be improved) are available at Stafford Park, Onepoto Domain and Northcote Central. No toilet facilities are proposed for Seapath.
Parking facilities that would spread an increase of visiting traffic density could make use of Onepoto Domain, the new Northcote Shopping Centre, Onewa Domain and Smales Farm.
revised: 20 02 20 by Jeremy Richards
NZTA feedback sessions, Northern Pathway