East-West Link, NZ Project Overview

East-West Link Auckland

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East-West Link, NZ Project Overview

New Zealand’s East-West Link Project is one of the country’s most significant infrastructure/road improvement projects, currently estimated to cost between 1.25b and 1.85b NZD.

The East-West Link project is based in Auckland, New Zealand’s North Island. It will provide a new link on the north side of the Mangere Inlet between SH20 at Onehunga and SH1 at Mount Wellington.

Throughout this article, we will dive deeper into the project goals, benefits, features and progress to date. Keep reading to discover more about New Zealand’s East-West Link project.

The need to upgrade the current SH1 through to Princes Street in Otahuhu supports the growing freight industry that contributes to a large amount of Auckland’s economy.

The Onehunga-Penrose area is a critical piece in the country’s transport network. Many of the largest distribution and logistics facilities are based in the area because it is close to state highways, the rail network, the airport, and the port. The region employs approximately 68,000 people and contributes $4.6 billion a year to Auckland’s economy.

Unfortunately, the current connections into and through the area are either incomplete or highly congested. This makes it slower and more expensive to move freight with the costs being passed on to customers. It also makes it harder for residents and businesses to get around. With freight movements expected to double by 2035, it is clear that the need for improvements around the Onehunga-Penrose area is essential.

The East-West Link project will provide the necessary infrastructure to unlock the restrictions to growth. The proposed project includes: 

  • A new four-lane arterial road between SH20 at Onehunga and the SH1 at Mt Wellington Highway
  • Widening of SH1 between Mt Wellington Highway and Princes Street
  • Free flow ramp connections at the Neilson Street Interchange
  • A grade-separated for the Great South Road and Sylvia Park Road intersection
  • Pedestrian and cycling link between Mangere Bridge and Onehunga through to Sylvia Park Town Centre
  • Local road, landscape and drainage improvements.

Goals

The East-West Link project aims to:

  • Improve the resilience of strategic transport network by providing a further connection between SH1 and SH20 and improving links to rail and freight hubs.
  • Improve travel times between the Onehunga – Penrose industrial area and State Highways 1 and 20.
  • Improve walking and cycling routes between Mangere Bridge, Onehunga and Sylvia Park and access to Otahuhu.
  • Provide more reliable bus journey times between State Highway 20 and Onehunga.

Features

  • New transport link on the northern side of the Māngere Inlet between SH20 at Onehunga and SH1 at Mt Wellington
  • Improvements on SH1 through to Princes Street
  • Includes connections to vital local roads at Galway Street, Captain Springs Road, Rail Freight Hub, Hugo Johnston Drive and Great South Road
  • A new walking and cycling path connecting from Māngere Bridge through to Sylvia Park and completing the shared route between Māngere Bridge and Taumanu Reserve
  • New walking and cycling connections across Ōtāhuhu Creek, improving routes between East Tamaki, Ōtāhuhu and Sylvia Park
  • A restored coastal edge, including new headlands and wetlands to improve the natural character of this area. This will treat stormwater run-off from wider Onehunga (improving water discharging to the Harbour)
  • Constructing the road on a bund to contain leachate being discharged from the closed landfills in the area.

Benefits

  • More resilient and reliable connections to SH1 and SH20, improving travel times for the wider area and enabling economic efficiency for businesses, motorists and freight
  • Providing capacity and local road access to the Onehunga Wharf will enable its future development
  • Creating better and more useable access for the community to the foreshore
  • Creating a more natural coastal edge and restoring habitat for wildlife
  • New and safer walking and cycling routes, including a dedicated way from Onehunga to Sylvia Park
  • More reliable journey times for buses travelling between Māngere Bridge and Onehunga
  • Supporting the growing Onehunga Town Centre by removing through traffic on Neilson Street (e.g. up to 27,000 fewer vehicles a day on the road through the town centre).

The East-West Link project has caused many debates over the years, from when its preferred route was announced in 2015. Throughout the years, there has been questions and discussions to evaluate whether this project aligned with the priorities and strategic direction set out in the Government Policy Statement on land transport, emphasising safety, access, the environment and value for money.

Additionally, funding for state highways has been heavily constrained. This saw a reduction in overall state highway funding for the 2018–21 period, with further reductions in the years beyond that period. This reduction in funding meant that the East-West Link project was put on the back burner and no longer listed as a priority project.

Throughout early 2020 the East-West Link project was under review and re-evaluated to ensure that the project aligns with the Government’s new policies and strategic direction. Until recently, in March 2021, the appeals held against the project were dismissed, meaning that the project will remain on Auckland’s transport priority list. Once there is a more straightforward path for the project, Waka Kotahi will work with key project stakeholders and the community to agree on the next steps for the project.

Summary

Improving transport conditions for freight and logistics seems to be a common focus across many Australia and New Zealand priority projects. The East-West link project will support the growth of the transport sector and economy of Auckland and the entire New Zealand economy.

The East-West Link project has already faced its challenges and setbacks, but once planning is complete and the project is underway, we are sure it will provide many benefits for the local community.  

© 2021 Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, visit their website.

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