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A tunnel in central Dunedin could be the best way to keep the city’s traffic flowing on the State Highway one-way system, a councillor says.
The out-of-the-box idea to bury part of State Highway1 could also enhance the environment in front of the city’s planned new hospital, because of what could be done on top of the tunnel, Dunedin city councillor Jim O’Malley said.
He envisaged the tunnel on the northbound SH1 one-way route could start from about lower Stuart St and finish at Hanover St, initially.
However, Cr O’Malley estimated the price tag could be about $400million, based on dig-and-bury projects typically costing about $1million per metre.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency’s board has endorsed a much more conservative programme that would retain the one-way system in an upgraded form.
Its preferred programme could cost about $103.2million.
This prompted the DCC to support an alternative programme to include two-way traffic for Castle and Cumberland Sts and making the latter a local road, as the discussion starting point.
Cr O’Malley voted for that resolution after his amendment about the two-way model being a starting point for discussion was accepted. The alternative programme could cost about $127million, if implemented.
"I want another design to be considered and it hasn’t really been public yet," Cr O’Malley told a recent Waikouaiti Coast Community Board meeting.
The one-way system would stay where it is, but two blocks in front of the planned hospital would be buried.
"The hospital, where it’s being built and the way it faces towards George St, is an opportunity to change the whole living environment down there," Cr O’Malley said.
He envisaged the tunnel could be extended progressively.
Cr O’Malley told the Otago Daily Times options on top of the tunnel could include cycleways, walkways and some form of roading.
It would keep heavy traffic away from hospital access points.
He first raised the idea about three years ago.
"My rhetoric around this has been Dunedin hasn’t had a big spend from central government on transport for years," Cr O’Malley said.
"A metropolitan centre needs proper government spending on it."
Such a project could not be paid for from the regular transport spending allocated to Dunedin.
The Government was prepared to pay the "lion’s share" of a $15 billion light rail project in Auckland and Auckland had got ahead with dig-and-bury projects.
"Auckland has three already and Wellington is contemplating one," Cr O’Malley said.
Asked if he was open to a range of possibilities for Dunedin, Transport Minister Michael Wood said he was continuing to work with Waka Kotahi and the city council on the options for SH1.
"It’s important to point out that our Government is investing a record $1.1billion over the next three years into the region’s transport — a $400million increase compared to the previous National government."