Thursday, 15th December, 2016
A fast fix of Auckland Airport’s traffic nightmare needs to be a project of ‘national significance’ focused on the entire transport network, especially the two state highways (SH20A and SH20B) that give access to the airport.
Commenting on the setting up of a taskforce to tackle the Airport’s worsening traffic chaos, Auckland Chamber head Michael Barnett said the warning signs have been apparent for years with the root cause Auckland’s rapid growth success.
“Auckland Airport can rightly celebrate its dual success to grow passenger numbers through the airport and develop an attractive, rapidly growing business precinct nearby.
“The twin drivers of the airport’s growth success – increased passenger and thriving businesses – have become a classic example of the inability of planning authorities to respond with the infrastructure needed to support the business-led growth,” said Mr Barnett.
Setting up a taskforce needs to be accompanied by a determination to dramatically lift the pace at which authorities transfer proposed improvements to the transport network that have sat on plans for years into action on the ground. “We need to see the bull dozers working.”
The root cause of recent airport gridlock can be traced back to the long-term failure of authorities to address the lack of capacity of the Puhinui Rd access from the west (SH20B). “Going back years, Puhinui gridlocks most working days and the congestion is now spreading back into the airport, affecting the whole of the airport’s roading network.”
For years, the business community has urged authorities to activate long-standing proposals sitting in Auckland Transport plans to improve access to the airport, including that:
- NZTA address the capacity constraints on SH20B (Puhinui Rd);
- Auckland Transport and central government activate a mass transit solution –rapid bus and or rail from the airport to Otahuhu-Manukau and the main commuter rail network; and,
- Both NZTA and Auckland Transport improve the overall network serving the airport and nearby area.
“An obvious project needing a fast uptake is to join the southern and western accessroutes (SH20A and SH20B) to create an airport by-pass to serve business and residential areas adjacent to the airport.”
Without this dramatic increase in pace, including a faster consenting process, Auckland is on notice to experience worse congestion in the next few years, given:
- Auckland Airport’s passenger throughput is projected to increase from its current 17 million passengers a year to 45 million by 2040; and
- When the SH20 Waterview tunnels open next year, traffic volumes on the western ring route going past the airport are projected to increase by 30,000 vehicles a day.
“This, surely, sends the clearest possible message to transport infrastructure decision-makers and funders on the need to dramatically lift their game, with dire consequences if they don’t,” warned Mr Barnett.