Mill Road project fell after cost of government’s infrastructure package increased by $ 6 billion in one year
The government effectively shut down the controversial Mill Road freeway project after costs more than doubled in a year. But Auckland gets a big win with a $ 685 million walking and cycling harbor bridge.
It’s one of six projects in New Zealand’s upgrade program that won’t go as planned, after some of the costliest cost increases in recent history.
National leader Judith Collins has said Mill Rd is a “must-have” and its elimination will create a bottleneck.
The $ 6.8 billion transport package announced in January last year has now been valued at $ 12.8 billion, or about 4 percent of GDP.
The government decided to fund $ 1.9 billion of the cost explosion, but redefined the scope of six of the 32 transportation projects to avoid funding the full $ 6 billion.
Instead of building Mill Road, Transport Minister Michael Wood said the government would focus on “significant safety upgrades at Mill Road, upgrades to SH1 and rail, and new train stations connected to railroads. public transport, walking and cycling infrastructure ”.
Mill Road initially cost $ 1.3 billion, it has been recalculated to $ 3.5 billion, making it almost three times as expensive as Transmission Gully, and on its own, worth almost 1% of GDP. from New Zealand.
Infrastructure Minister Grant Robertson said the changes represented a “balanced approach”.
“Fully funding the new estimated costs for each project would have cost up to an additional $ 6 billion on top of the original $ 6.8 billion, so we took a balanced approach with a mix of additional investments and handful of redefined projects. while keeping the debt under control, ”said Robertson.
Collins took aim at the decision to cancel Mill Road, but opted for a much more expensive cycling and walking route through Waitemata Harbor.
“The cancellation of Mill Road will leave South Aucklanders in traffic jams for decades to come, all because the government is moving forward with a half-baked addition to the Auckland Harbor Bridge,” he said. Collins said.
There have been considerable cost increases across the entire transport package.
The Ōtaki highway north of Levin was supposed to cost $ 817 million, it is now estimated at $ 1.5 billion. The government has pledged to finance the difference and build the road.
Wellington’s Melling interchange has also been secured, but its costs have skyrocketed as well. Its cost is now estimated at $ 420 million, down from $ 258 million a year ago.
Upgrade projects have been political football for the past month after Wood revealed he had received updated costs for the projects and couldn’t commit to building them all as originally planned. .
Some of the projects have been redesigned to reduce emissions.
“Recognizing the need to decarbonize our transport system, we are rebalancing the package to increase investment in rail, public transport, walking and cycling,” said Wood.
The Green Party was quick to embrace the pivot to more climate-friendly projects, like the new shared path on Waitemata Harbor.
Transport Minister Michael Wood confirms new bridge for walkers and cyclists will cost $ 685 million
The Greens held the associated transport portfolio when the upgrade program was put in place, but quickly signaled their disagreement with then-Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter, publishing an opinion piece criticizing the carbon intensity of the initial program.
Genter reiterated those concerns on Friday.
“Rebalancing the NZ Upgrade’s investment towards more rails and safe walking and cycling is a positive step, but this program is still investing way too much money in a few oversized highways.
“The government must seize this opportunity to invest in transformational interregional rail services, transit, and safer walking and cycling infrastructure in communities,” said Mr. Genter.
“It’s good to see the government rebalancing and scaling back some of the initial road projects, such as Mill Road, and better rail investments around Whangarei and Marsden Point. But overall, it won’t go far enough to make a substantial difference in our transport emissions, ”she said.