The Western Ring Route is a single 48km motorway in Auckland, running north-south and providing an alternative to SH1 and the Harbour Bridge. It is scheduled for completion by 2015.
The Route combines the Southwestern (SH20), Northwestern (SH16) and Upper Harbour (SH18) Highways. The Western Ring Route bypasses Auckland city to the west and will link Manukau, Waitakere, and North Shore cities. Much of the route comprises new sections of motorway, including the Waterview Connection, and Mt Roskill and Manukau extensions.
The AA-commissioned report, Economic Benefits of Investing in New Zealand's Road Infrastructure (Allen Report), calculated the completed Western Ring Route would deliver benefits to New Zealand valued at approximately $840 million every year.
The Waterview Connection project, through Avondale, Mt Albert and Waterview, is the vital last link in the Western Ring Route. The Waterview Connection will connect SH20 at Maioro Street in Mt Roskill to the northwestern motorway SH16 at Waterview by Great North Road.
In February 2008 Transit (now known as the New Zealand Transport Agency) proposed building two 3.2km two-lane tunnels, costing $1.89 billion (in 2015 dollars), as the best way to construct the Waterview Connection. Three quarters of the 747 public responses made during the two month community engagement process favoured the tunnels, as did the majority of local authorities and interest groups that also commented.
AA speaking up for motorists
The AA supported the proposal to build the Waterview Connection using tunnels; however, we urged Transit to future-proof the project by making the capacity of each tunnel three lanes. Following the consultation, Transit NZ approved the tunnelling of the Waterview Connection and asked for a special report to enable a more detailed comparison on the two additional lanes requested by the AA.
Rejection of Transit NZ's tolling proposal
In 2007, Transit NZ announced it would not proceed with its proposal to toll the Western Ring Route. Transit had suggested introducing an electronic tolling system at seven tolling points along the route. The toll charges would have been no more than $2 at any one tolling location and $10 for the entire trip between Manukau and Albany.
The highest tolls would have been charged in the morning and evening peaks, costing less off-peak and at night. Emergency services and public transport would have been exempt from tolls.
What AA Members are saying
We'd studied the details of the tolling proposal and polled our Auckland Members prior to making a formal submission as part of the Transit consultation process. The poll of 2,651 AA Auckland Members clearly showed that twice as many Members were opposed to Transit's tolling proposal than supported it.
Opposition was particularly strong from Members who are frequent users of the Western Ring Route; from Members living in the Avondale, Waitakere and Mt Roskill areas; and those Members who are cautious or worried about their finances.
AA Members expressed a preference for the Government to fund the $800 million shortfall required to complete the Western Ring Route either by using the government surplus or by borrowing the money and funding repayments from general taxation.
There was little Member support for tolling the Western Ring Route, or funding the shortfall through a regional petrol tax or cordon charging. There was also very little support from AA Members for any toll that lasted beyond 10 years.
The AA advised Transit and the Government of its opposition to tolling the Western Ring Route and urged them not to proceed with the proposal due to the lack of community support.