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The Dunedin City Council’s lack of faith in the one-way system through the city centre flies in the face of what the public wants, the Automobile Association says.
Alternative models, including one pushed by the council, would result in traffic congestion and public feedback about that had been clear, AA Otago chairman Malcolm Budd said.
"People should be able to move across the city efficiently and safely and be able to access parking," Mr Budd said.
The issue came to a head near the end of last year, as central and local government officials grappled with how traffic disruption could be minimised in connection with construction of a new hospital in the city centre.
The Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency (WKNZTA) decided the pair of State Highway1 one-way routes should be retained and upgraded.
That prompted the council to push for an alternative programme — including adding a northbound lane to SH1 in Castle St and making Cumberland St a two-way local road — "as the basis for future discussion".
Mr Budd said the AA surveyed its Otago members last year and 75% of respondents wanted to keep the one-way system.
That lined up with results from an online survey for WKNZTA in 2020, when about three-quarters of respondents backed the one-way system as the best option for Dunedin as it grows and as the best option for integrating the hospital and the city.
Respondents in the AA survey accepted a 30kmh speed limit could be needed near the new hospital, Mr Budd said.
Cr Andrew Whiley, who voted against the council’s stance, said changing to a two-way system would result in a procession of trucks using Cumberland St.
This could decrease the quality of the environment between Otago Museum and the University of Otago, he said.
Cr Whiley said traffic engineers and decision-makers risked pushing safety issues from the hospital and central city towards the university.
However, establishing a central city bypass on the harbour side of the railway tracks would reduce traffic around the hospital, whichever approach was favoured for SH1.
Cr Jules Radich said abandonment of the one-way system would make traffic congestion worse.
This would force up business costs.
"Transit times are probably even more important to sick or injured patients and studies have shown that rapid transit to hospital is a key factor in successful outcomes," Cr Radich said.
Dunedin Mayor Aaron Hawkins has pointed to a two-way system providing "better outcomes for liveability, place quality, travel choice, connectivity and carbon zero".
Cr Carmen Houlahan said the drive to improve environments for pedestrians should have its limits.
"There are roads that can be made ‘people friendly’, but the state highway is not one of them."