NZTA is proposing widening Rocks Rd as one of the options for solving Nelson’s transport issues. Photo: File.

Experts say new routes won’t make Nelson more accessible

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An expert team has assessed that creating a new ‘inland road’ or widening Rocks Rd would not make Nelson more accessible or create more quality urban environments.

An inland route would, however, significantly improve our resilience compared with today’s main arterial routes.

The Nelson Future Access project was presented to Nelson City Council last week and is led by Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) with the council as a key project partner.

The three long term options have been short-listed to include additional lanes on State Highway 6/Rocks Road and Waimea Road for priority traffic during peak hours (clearways), widening the SH6 coastal corridor to two lanes in each direction, and building a new inland road – formerly known as the Southern Link.

Public feedback would be invited on the options that lobby groups from either side said placed the city little further ahead than it had been for more than a decade.

A team of specialists were appointed with expertise in a range of areas including transport planning, environmental impacts, urban design, economic, heritage and culture.

They were asked by the Nelson Future Access team to look at all three long-term packages and provide an assessment of their impacts.

It found neither the inland route or widening Rocks Rd would benefit accessibility.

Adding priority lanes to both SH6/Rocks Rd and Waimea Rd/Rutherford St for priority traffic appeared to have the most benefits, having significantly positive effects on moving people and freight as well as making Nelson more accessible.

Funding will only be sought once a single draft proposal is decided. Funding would most likely come from a mix of local and central government support.

A decision has been hamstrung for years over opposition to building a new highway through Nelson.

The group pushing for the removal of State Highway 6 from the Nelson waterfront to an inland route said the latest study was a box-ticking exercise.

Spokesman Jeremy Matthews said the recommendations appeared to be merely procedural.

“That’s the only reason that we can think of – either it’s kicking the can down the road again or it is playing an exactly straight bat in a system that requires every box to be ticked, so the final result is, without any shadow of a doubt, the best and right option.”

A Nelson transport strategy group (Nelsust), which supported alternative options to building more roads, said it was good to see more walking and cycling options in the short-term proposals, but the study was little different to others.

Spokesperson Peter Olorenshaw said earlier studies had also proposed several interim options until a final decision was clear.

He said the long-term option was broader than in the past, in that it included more than just the “Southern Link”.

Nelsust was, however, disappointed that the congestion pricing they had been pushing for was excluded from the list of options.

“It’s really the only solution, and it’s very marked in Nelson that there’s a definite morning peak and slightly more spread out in the afternoon.

“If we can just spread that out then suddenly the road can take it, without getting congested.”

Olorenshaw said a flaw of the study was that that the views of Tasman residents had not been included, when many drove into Nelson each day for work or school.

“It’s not looking at the people from Richmond and beyond, coming into Nelson each day.

“It’s looking only at Nelsonians and I don’t think they’re the ones causing the congestion.”

–With RNZ