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Opportunities for improving our city exist every day but every so often there is a change that can prompt a larger rethink about how we are progressing.
Such a change is just ahead of us with design for the new Dunedin Hospital under way and other proposed developments, including the George St upgrade, tertiary precinct and waterfront development and district energy scheme.
In response, the NZ Transport Agency and the Dunedin City Council are working together to assess whether the current transport system is the best it can be.
Dunedin's Central City is bisected by State Highway 1, running as one-way streets, north-bound and south-bound. These roads have functioned largely unchanged for about 50 years. Over that time there have been conversations about whether the system should be changed, particularly to reduce severance between the various precincts and to improve safety for all road users, whether it be for pedestrians, people in cars or on bikes and scooters.
As reported in the Otago Daily Times on Saturday, preliminary plans for the new hospital have been released and we are now thinking about access to this essential community asset. Last year, representatives of about 20 organisations in the city came together for a two-day workshop to consider whether the hospital should be a catalyst for transport change and what potential scenarios might look like.
By the conclusion of the workshop, participants were agreed that it was desirable to consider potential changes to the transport network and to develop scenarios to be tested including an option to retain the one-way system and an option to change it.
Mayor Dave Cull has already expressed our shared view that we want the community to be part of these conversations, which has started with consultation on the plans for George St. We want the transport network to be fit for our future needs. Moving to a two-way system is potentially more ambitious than a scenario of network change that retains the current one-way system but both scenarios could be developed to show more fully how they might meet criteria such as safety and amenity, provision of transport choice, reduced emissions, enhanced social and economic opportunity and cost. The Transport Agency is likely to make a decision in March on whether to further develop the scenarios.
Ultimately, we want to keep thinking strategically about the city's long-term transport needs and importantly, as part of this process we will be seeking input from the wider community.
With a new hospital on the way, planned for the central city, there is certainly no better time to do so.
-Jim Harland is the Director Regional Relationships (South Island) for the New Zealand Transport Agency.