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AT’s $48-million message on Lake Rd: Forget a dream run, embrace new reality

Flagstaff Team

Blueprint… A design overview, showing upgraded cycle lanes (green), a T2 lane (red) and main intersection improvements (circles). The cycle lane north from Devonport would loop to avoid the roundabout.

Latest designs to manage Lake Rd traffic promise improved safety and flow, but congestion won’t ease significantly unless more peninsula residents embrace “mode shift”.

Auckland Transport (AT) was adamant it cannot magic away vehicle congestion with its resumed $48 million upgrade project, but says road design that encourages more people to use public transport or car pool, and to cycle and walk, will make a dent in commuter travel times.

If short car journeys reduced, it meant “those who needed to drive would have a better journey,” said AT’s manager of strategic projects, Daniel Newcombe.

One to two years’ more work was expected on detailed design, and getting consents and engaging contractors.

“So you won’t see anything on the ground for a year or more, unless there’s some simple things we can do,” Newcombe told the Devonport-Takapuna Local Board at a briefing on the controversial Lake Rd project this month.

One early project could be a cycleway along Bayswater Ave, which has been confirmed to be part of the wider project. If this could begin separately from Belmont intersection issues, Newcombe said “we should be able to do it early.”

Design work is also set to proceed this year with Waka Kotahi (the New Zealand Transport Agency) on the project’s Esmonde Rd section to the motorway on-ramps.

The entire Lake Rd project was put on hold due to Covid-19 and its budget impacts last year, after years of surveys and consultation resulted in little board agreement or community satisfaction with plans.

But AT has been working on revised indicative designs and looking at timelines. After an advance of $2 million was secured from Auckland Council budgets after lobbying by North Shore councillors, AT said it could now begin finalising its Lake Rd designs, including those for choke points at Hauraki corner, the Bardia St/Winscombe St intersection, and Belmont centre.

Board reaction to the plans was mostly positive – after months of calling for an update – with members welcoming the detailed overview. However, chair Ruth Jackson wants another meeting with AT to answer further questions.

Newcombe gave a clear message to board members that extended wishful tinkering was highly unlikely to satisfy all parties. “This isn’t AT trying to be difficult in any way.”

Unless the board could find some other money, the budget and objectives were fixed. Within these caveats, however, improvements could happen.

“It’s not just a congestion project,” Newcombe said. Safety was an important driver of the work. More than a third of serious crashes on the road involved pedestrians and cyclists, he said. Half of journeys were local ones.

Cycleways throughout the route would be given protective kerbs (as pictured, page 15). At Lake Rd’s Devonport end, it was planned to divert northbound cyclists through side streets to reduce risk near the roundabout.

Raised crossings were also flagged where key side streets ran into Lake Rd, to improve pedestrian safety and slow traffic before it merged into the main carriageway. Such measures might also help deter rat runners trying to avoid the signalled intersections, he said.

Newcombe said budget and space limitations meant continuous T2 lanes could not be accommodated within the existing Lake Rd carriageway. The case or appetite for land acquisition also did not stack up, he reminded members.

But a T2 lane would be fitted heading north only on Lake Rd for buses and vehicles with two or more passengers. This would start from just past Eversleigh Rd through Hauraki corner up to Esmonde Rd.

T2 lanes encourage shifts in the way people get around, he said. For example, car-pooling on Onewa Rd delivered better commute times for users. While shorter stretches of T2 had been considered for elsewhere on Lake Rd, it was thought these would cause merge difficulties, counteracting benefits.

But road realignments and measures such as better traffic light-signal phasing and merging pathways for vehicles would help flow and reduce journey times, he said.

Work along Lake Rd would be staged, which would limit disruption, he said. It should take around a year once underway.

Electronic technology would be introduced to help signal journey times, better informing people what lay ahead so they could make their own best traffic choices.

KEY CHANGES

  • AT expects people on buses and in vehicles on T2 lanes will cut 20 per cent from their travel time.
  • Bus patronage is forecast to rise 10 per cent once Lake Rd is more streamlined.
  • Success will rely on travel behaviour change – to chosen mode, time and routes.
  • AT is talking to Navy about the impact of personnel movements.
  • Upgrades to Lake Rd cycle lanes will use curbs to separate riders from cars.
  • Bayswater to get cycle lane from end to end, separate from footpath.
  • Traffic light timing on signal led intersections to be reassessed to optimise flow, after corner design work is done.
  • Raised crossings at non-signalled side streets, to slow exiting traffic. Benefits to cycle safety on Lake Rd and to pedestrian visibility on surface flush with footpath.
  • Feedback from the local board last year led to some design adjustments.
  • Budget and project objectives curtail the extent of further design tweaks. Waka Kotahi funds dependent on objectives.

Pinch points get extra attention

Turning points… AT’s proposals for Belmont include removing the left-hand-turn lane from Bayswater Ave and it may add a double lane right-hand turn out of Williamson Ave

Big changes are in store at Belmont, aimed at easing this choke-point intersection and im- proving pedestrian safety. AT wants to do this in conjunction with Auckland Council’s pend- ing Belmont centre upgrade, given the work could overlap, especially on the seaward side, where public parking, bus stops, access to the Rose Centre and Belmont Primary all need accommodating. Buses may use an indented stop on Lake Rd, rather than entering the car park area and exiting at Williamson Ave.

  • Two peak-hour turning lanes out of Williamson Ave are being considered to limit signal-time stoppage on Lake Rd.
  • A longer merge north on Lake Rd is possible, to help counter the gridlock of cars Hauraki corner getting caught on the intersection or crossing without enough space and time to merge to one lane.
  • Extending the merge would mean losing roadside parks in front of the Lake Rd shops nearest the intersection, although this might be limited to morning peak hours.
  • Earlier ideas of a short T2 lane running up from Roberts Rd through the intersection “may not be worth the “dis-benefit” to other traffic, AT says. More design work would be done on maximising the thoroughfare by McDonald’s, but cars opposite, turning and heading south, compress the space to work with in this section.
  • New cycle lanes may come early along Bayswater Ave (and be separate from the footpaths) to later link to Lake Rd lanes.
Upgraded… the planned Hauraki Corner layout includes a northbound T2 lane and a raised table at the Hart Rd exit to Lake Rd (above, left)

Changes proposed at Hauraki include:

  • A northbound T2 lane through the corner, starting south of Eversleigh St and running to Esmonde Rd. Reinvestigation found insufficient room for a southbound T2 lane from Hauraki Corner, without substantial road widening. AT said additional laning ran the risk of generating traffic congestion that would outweigh benefits, with buses caught in congestion.
  • Corner realignments will remove the short left-turning slip lane into Hauraki Rd, with AT considering these dangerous to pedestrians and cyclists. Two lanes exiting Hauraki Rd at the lights will be explored to shorten wait times. Kerb works may allow the southbound merging lane to be extended further down Lake Rd.
  • Cyclists wishing to turn right at the lights from Lake Rd into Jutland Rd would divert to a new holding zone at the top of Hauraki Rd to wait for lights to change in front of traffic exiting that street. This is a new AT approach to cycle safety. (Board members noted it might stop cyclists making risky right-hand turns.)

OTHER CORNERS

  • Exits from Eversleigh and St Leonards Rds onto Lake Rd have long prompted calls from residents, Takapuna Grammar School and the local board to remedy turning issues and pedestrian congestion near bus stops. AT says it reassessed options but considered traffic lights at the off-set intersection would likely be inefficient and add to Lake Rd delays.
  • At the tail-back plagued Bardia-Winscombe intersection space is too tight for two lanes exiting each of the side streets, says AT, and there is no budget to buy properties to allow it.
  • Where Old Lake Rd and Seabreeze Rd join Lake Rd and where the project ends at the Albert Rd roundabout yet to be detailed corner enhancements will take place.

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