If Transport Minister Phil Twyford is looking for a quick start to unlock Auckland’s congestion, the ‘ready to go’ Penlink Project ticks all the boxes.
He inherits a ‘ready to go’ project North Shore’s rapidly expanding Silverdale - Whangaparaoa community have desperately sought for years – in five years the morning congestion peak has grown from around a kilometer to now be 5-7km most working days, and is set to get worse.
This is because the Silverdale area has been designated in the Auckland Unitary Plan for intensive residential development, with around 30,000 new homes and business expansion. Millwater, Milldale and Wainui residential projects are already underway, and there are numerous house builds happening along the Peninsula, all of which add to traffic congestion.
The Penlink Project involves building a new 7km road direct from the Whangaparoa Peninsula to the Northern motorway, and bypassing Silverdale; not only will congestion be eased but a more reliable bus service will be possible. At present, the congestion makes express buses impossible.
The logic for Penlink to be first Auckland transport project off the rank under the new government is compelling. It is fully consented. Appeals have been dealt with. There is a strong business case; the land for building a 4-lane road costing around $360 million has been purchased, and which has a benefit-cost-ratio (BCR) of 3.5, meaning that for every dollar spent the return is $3.50.
There is a stronger business case for a 2-lane version, with the BCR 5.7 for a project costing $240 million; i.e. for every dollar spent the return will be $5.70 – the highest return of all projects listed in the Government-Auckland Council’s transport alignment project.
What’s more private sector investors have been lining up, especially if the project can be linked with other transport improvements needed to cope with Silverdale’s property development boom.
Residents are also prepared to pay a toll of between $2.50 and $3 – a measure, surely, of how badly the community wants action – and which will provide a revenue stream that has potential to reduce the capital cost and cover operating costs long-term.
In the total scheme of Auckland’s $20 billion-plus transport investment agenda Penlink is small-scale. But politically its potential value is huge. Two months of the Government’s term has already gone, and unless it starts something soon, after three years it risks not having much to show.
Here is a ready-made critically needed project that with the private sector, central government and Auckland Council working together can have minimal impact on Council’s debt levels. I say it could/should be first cab off the rank for the new Government – a test case for showing it has a ‘can do’ culture.