Western suburbs roads take the strain

Posted on August 25, 2011 by

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Today on Stuff was an article outlining the westward drift of traffic in Christchurch since the February earthquake. It was more interesting than anything else, but shows how strained roads have been due to changed travel patterns:

Johns Rd had an extra 11,000 vehicles per day immediately after the February 22 quake as traffic volume on Christchurch’s western corridor jumped 15 per cent.

The rate is slowly falling from the 35,000 peak, but still sits several thousand above the pre-quake average of 24,000 per day.

Traffic volume on the southern corridor, including Main South Rd, the motorway and Brougham St, rose 10 per cent while the northern corridor, through Cranford St, dropped the same amount.

An upgrade of the western ring route connecting Belfast and Hornby through Johns Rd, Russley Rd and Carmen Rd is a priority as part of the New Zealand Transport Agency’s (NZTA) Roads of National Significance programme.

NZTA southern regional director Jim Harland said the post-quake congestion on the western corridor underlined its necessity.

“It’s becoming more important to get that moving rather than less important with the movement of the city from east to west.

“That corridor is going to be critical for the future economic growth of Christchurch.”

Four-laning work on the southern section of the route was under way but the northern part was not due to start before late next year. It will be finished in 2014.

“We’re looking to get a decision to move as soon as we can,” Harland said.

“We’re having ongoing discussions with the city and Christchurch International Airport. It’s about access points and land requirements.

“There’s a bit of road widening required, we need to take some land as well. So we need their support in that.”

Traffic controls in western Christchurch were being adapted to cope with the strain.

The traffic lights on Moorhouse Ave had been a major problem in the weeks after the February quake because they had favoured the one-way systems, Harland said.

“That’s not where the priority was needed, but the control computer was in the red zone and it took some time to get in there and then reorganise it.”

Driver behaviour dictated changes as much as emergency planning, he said.

“It’s kind of people making their own choices and figuring out a new route, but also improvements in the network that was quite constrained in the first few weeks after the earthquake.”

Christchurch City Council road corridor operations manager Paul Burden said many of the changes were along Innes Rd and Idris Rd and their route via Clarence St to Addington.

“It’s what we’re calling the new outer ring.

“That’s the one that experienced the most significant increase in traffic volumes since February 22. That’s the one we targeted with our measures; key intersections along that route.”

Traffic on some roads was approaching pre-quake levels he said, and changes made after the earthquake would be reversed when they did.

The impact of The Palms shopping centre reopening on September 8 would be the next big test of traffic patterns, he said.

I think what the traffic situation post-quake in Christchurch illustrates is how important it is going to be to integrate land-use and transport policy in the rebuild. The chaos that ensued on the roads due to changed travel patterns, in turn caused by rapidly changed working and living locations, is perhaps a bit of an eye opener and to me is an example of why we need to plan this city, rather than allowing developers to build sprawling residential and commercial developments wherever they please. It is no mystery why Aucklanders complain of their commutes to work!

Hand in hand with that, it also illustrates why we need a world-class public transport system as part of that overall plan. Again, just look at Auckland to see what happens when you don’t do that. Sure, I am not saying that in the event of a future natural disaster light rail or bus lanes will be our saviour, but I am saying that as congestion increases we can either be stuck in our cars, or bless ourselves with options.

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Posted in: Cars, Christchurch, Roads