Fears of second ‘Hill Street’ bottleneck

The width of the Matakana Link Road is in dispute.

A suggestion that the proposed Matakana Link Road be reduced from four lanes down to two has alarmed local community groups, who fear it may create traffic snarl ups to rival Hill Street.

Auckland Transport (AT) is under pressure from the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) to slash the cost of the $89 million road, which will connect Matakana Road to SH1.

In May, AT decided to progress the project, subject to NZTA funding subsidy approval.

But the NZTA first wants to see the outcome of investigations to discover whether the cost of the project can be cut back to less than $55 million.

At a meeting of the Warkworth Road Infrastructure Forum last month – attended by representatives of various local groups – an AT representative revealed that a move to two-lanes was among the cost-cutting options being considered.

But the proposal is described as “madness” by Matakana Community Group chair Simon Barclay.

Dr Barclay says a two-lane road will fail to cope with a planned new industrial park, increasing residential development and the opening of the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway in 2021.

He says the new motorway will see a massive influx of visitors coming to Matakana, Leigh, Omaha and Point Wells and all will attempt to use the Matakana Link Road. This, coupled with the other developments, will create an enormous bottleneck if the road is cut back to just two lanes.

“All they are doing is creating another Hill Street further north,” he says.

“To spend an enormous amount building something that is not fit for purpose by the time it is finished doesn’t seem to me to be the best way to go or the best value for dollars.”

Dr Barclay’s comments are echoed by One Warkworth Business Association chair Chris Murphy who says the Matakana Link Road will become the main point of entry and exit for 50 to 60ha of new industrial-zoned land.

“I think it’s ludicrous personally – particularly given the traffic volumes that are expected.”

Mr Murphy says AT has tried to justify the two-lane proposal based on revised traffic movement and usage predictions, but he remains concerned that the chief reason is financial.

“We are very concerned that they are cutting their cloth to suit their budget and we are going to end up with a compromised road, which will just add to the problems, as opposed to solving problems,” he says.

But the director of the independent think tank Greater Auckland, Matt Lowrie, said starting with two lanes and then moving to four may be no bad thing, especially as traffic volumes along Matakana Link Road would likely be light at first until other developments caught up.  

“The problem we have got is that we have so much we need to build and spend to catch up on our infrastructure requirements. By spending extra money to do a four-lane road now could mean that there is something else that we are not doing that might be a more valuable use of the money.” he says.
Meanwhile, Roger Williams, of Fix Hill Street Now, says if AT does go ahead with two lanes for the Matakana Link Road then it must at least be sure to allow for four lanes in the future as they will certainly be required.

Mr Williams is also a firm advocate of extending the Matakana Link Road to Sandspit Road, as AT has previously mooted. This will allow traffic from Snells Beach to access the new Puhoi to Warkworth motorway and SH1 directly, rather than via Hill Street.

“If the Sandspit link is not in place then traffic from Snells Beach going to the new motorway will need to make a right turn at Hill Street. This will create far more congestion at the Hill Street intersection than currently exists,” he says.   

AT spokesperson Mark Hannan says AT has budgeted for the Matakana Link Road to proceed over the next three years, but no final decisions have been made on modifying the proposed road.

“Auckland Transport and NZTA are working together over the next couple of months to optimise the staging of the project to ensure we can afford this important project, while also delivering more on region-wide safety and public transport initiatives,” he says.


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