This is the first of a series of articles (and other forms of information) that we will be producing to explain the Lincoln Road upgrade project, how AT and the community can exchange information and how to best manage the difficulties the re-build will bring.

We know we have to work closely with you to meet the needs of the Lincoln and Henderson business, leisure, education, medical and residential precincts, to the best of our ability. This is because thriving local communities that allow people to live, work and play close to home, are one of the sustainable solutions to congestion. Accordingly, ensuring the vibrancy of the Lincoln and Henderson business sectors is a key outcome for the project.

We have time to ensure that outcome. Physical works don’t start for three years (apart from on the motorway interchange) and we will use that time to build solid relationships and networks with the business and other communities. With these, AT and business can exchange as much information as possible to help you be prepared to ride out what will be challenging times and, to help keep the challenges to a minimum.

We’re very grateful to the Central Park Henderson Business Association which has offered itself to be a pipeline between Auckland Transport and Lincoln Road/Henderson business communities. Information can flow both ways through this pipeline; we can communicate with you more effectively and we can hear your concerns, suggestions and issues. It will be one of the keys to pre-empting issues and to resolving those we can’t pre-empt.

Information is the key to being prepared. So as a starting point, this article gives an overview of the project. Later articles will talk about the detail of the works, how they will be planned and how we propose to carry them out.

Why must Lincoln Road be upgraded?

Lincoln is already heavily congested with 48,000 thousand vehicles six days a week. If we do nothing, this will only get worse as the population and business sector grow.

Also, Lincoln Road traffic contributes to the regional congestion which costs the city’s businesses $1.5 billion a year in lost productivity1 . That is unsustainable and it can’t be allowed to get worse. So, there’s a lot at stake and because Lincoln Rd is part of the city’s problem, the upgrade has to be part of the city’s solution.

The upgrade, of itself, won’t reduce the number of vehicles but it will enable the traffic to flow more efficiently and reduce travel times. After the upgrade, therefore, a more free-flowing Lincoln Road will contribute to a growing and vibrant business sector.

Yes, there will be challenges for business during the upgrade but between us, we can prepare for and manage those challenges. Doing nothing, however, will sooner or later kill the business sector – and we can’t manage that.

So that is “why”.

How will we arrest congestion?

Making roads flow better is part of the answer and it can be straightforward.

Lincoln Road is actually big enough, right now, for the traffic it carries. The problem is that small blockages in many places, especially at intersections and the motorway interchange, stop traffic from flowing efficiently. For example, turning traffic and through-traffic, sharing a single lane, hold each other up at intersections, waiting for their phase of lights.

Realigning the intersections where necessary, adding more turning lanes and synchronising the lights better, will make a huge difference. Improving the motorway interchange will also help. This presently acts like a stopper in a bottle, backing traffic up on Lincoln Road and compounding all the other blockages. However, NZTA will start works as early as June or July this year, to improve the interchange. This alone will improve traffic flow immediately and be a big help in managing traffic-flow when we do our works in three years’ time.

Nevertheless, facilitating better traffic flow isn’t a sustainable solution. Over time the traffic will build up again and the cycle will repeat. To prevent this we have to arrest congestion at source. As the main cause of congestion is many thousands of single occupant commuter vehicles, so we can only arrest congestion at source by enticing solo drivers to leave their cars at home and commute using an alternative.

Lincoln Road is a good example of what AT, NZTA and the council are doing, city-wide, to achieve this, by setting up the arterial roads and motorways to promote the alternatives of Public Transport (PT), car sharing, and walking and cycling.

This is already working spectacularly well. Both PT and cycling are proving that if we “build it, they will come”.

PT patronage is increasing every year. Last year, 91 million trips were taken on bus, rail and ferry. Even so, cycling has become the second-fastest-growing mode of transport in our city.

The spectacular reduction in congestion in school holidays, when the “school run” isn’t happening, shows what a benefit cycling to school can have. There has to be a package of changes in order for cycling to school to “take off” and we will be working on those, but for it to be possible at all, we do need safe cycling spaces.

We can provide off-road cycle-ways beside Lincoln Road, at little cost. We need a four-metre berm on both sides anyway and the cycle-way can be placed there for the cost of the concrete (which is minimal, especially given that NZTA is paying 52% of the project’s construction cost).

However, for now, “New Network” bus services are the main “congestion-busting tool”. These services provide comfortable, affordable, modern transportation that can be faster and much cheaper than commuting by car and have a reliable on-time performance. But that is only possible if the buses have their own uncongested lane to run in.

Lincoln doesn’t yet justify a bus lane but a T3 lane (with bus priority at intersections) will facilitate a fast run for buses, while vehicles with three or more people aboard will also be rewarded. And, because the T3 will take up to 15% of current traffic, that will leave more space in the other two lanes during peak hours. Off peak, all road users will share three lanes.

Where will we get the room from to do this?

We have to buy a strip of land off some 84 properties (many with multiple business occupants). This will give us the space for a wider road and, a berm with room for all the underground services (which have to be re-located).

To achieve this, we have to negotiate mutually acceptable individual packages with each property. We must re-establish the front boundaries closer to the properties and reconfigure and re-landscape properties inside the new boundary, to mitigate the impact to the greatest possible extent.

This will be a three year process and our goal is to leave every affected business, resident and community enterprise with the feeling that we have done the very best we can for them.

What input can you expect to have?

The plan itself is decided. So things can’t be changed.

The road will be widened, it will have a Transit lane on either side, a raised median barrier (for safety) with lights-controlled U-Turns at the major intersections and, it will have off road cycle lanes. However, a myriad details both in terms of the design and managing the construction, have still to be settled.

We’ve started the Detailed Design which, in about 18 months, will describe every action we have to take, metre by metre, between Te Pai Place and the motorway. We will be able to discuss this with affected parties. Then, we have to decide on the construction methodology and this too, will have to pay very close attention to the impacts on every single affected property and how to keep these to a minimum.

During these processes, we will listen to you. We will respond. We will explain. We will have an effective complaints and information process. And, where possible, we will make adjustments that improve your experience during the works themselves.

In the next issue of this magazine we will explain some of the massive detail that will go into the upgrade of Lincoln Road.