Wellington.Scoop » Petone to Melling bike path cost tripled to $63m

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The underpass south of Petone Station

RNZ Report by Phil Pennington
The country’s cycle lane construction program faces a tough choice between postponing, delaying or blasting projects. Mistakes on the Petone to Melling walking and biking trail helped more than triple the price to $63 million. This included a million dollar “clerical error” and the planners forgot to include basics such as a contingency.

Few investigations have been carried out in Petone, and the list of unpleasant surprises includes contaminated land costing 10 times more to remove than expected.

Waka Kotahi documents released as part of the OIA show that in November, the nationwide cycle lane program faced an overrun of nearly 10%, or $670 million for the period. 2021-24. “If current cost escalation trends…continue…without project delays or deferrals…there is likely to be an overrun/violation of the $618 million board-approved capital investment target. “, says a council document.

Waka Kotahi said in a statement yesterday that he had to choose which cycle bridges were a priority to fund. He did not specify which were given priority, except that some were in Auckland and others in Wellington. The $670 million did not take into account several projects facing cost overruns this year, including at least $17 million overruns in Auckland.

It’s not just the pressures of Covid-19 that explain the overruns, either. A series of basic errors plagued the Petone-Melling Road in the Lower Hutt Te Awa Kairangi.

The path is less than 3 km long, has two underground passages and cost $17 million in 2017. It is now on track to reach $65 million, or more than $20 million per kilometer.

“A $1 million administrative error was discovered,” a report said in February, two months after the project received an additional $24 million. “The error reduced the contingency of the project, which increases the likelihood” of needing an even larger budget.

“A ‘lessons learned’ discussion has been set up.”

Although the cycle path is wedged between the train tracks and SH2, the first detailed business case in 2017 “erroneously” forgot to allow coordination with KiwiRail, according to the papers.

Securing engineering and site approvals from KiwiRail has slowed work since November.

The business case also failed to consider quality assurance, managed costs, or a contingency. When Waka Kotahi realized this, he put the project on hold to review its cost-benefit ratio.

At the time, it was set at 1.2, or $1.20 for every $1 invested. But the latest cost overruns have cut it in half, to just 0.6. It also slightly lowers the ratio of the entire Wellington-Hutt Bikeway, costing over $200 million, of which Petone-Melling is the start.

In 2015, the entire cycle route from Melling to Bunny Street in Wellington was expected to cost just $50 million.

The Petone section was restarted by the NZTA in early 2019. By then its budget had almost doubled to $33 million, with a new contingency of $2.8 million, but was still badly flawed.

It was “not up to our standards,” says a council document under the heading “Lessons Learned.”

“Only five specific risks were considered in the contingency, and no contingencies were allocated for unidentified risks, which are particularly important in a project with a high degree of uncertainty and a long duration,” it said. -he declares.

What was needed were “rigorous cost estimating practices”.

The impact of a substandard budget was felt quickly – from $33m the projected cost rose to $39m and then, at the end of last year, to $63m .

Much of the eruption was “due to ground conditions in the narrow corridor”. There “was no access to the corridor to carry out the surveys before the call for tenders”.

The “consequence of not conducting a proper investigation prior to construction” includes:

having to spend nearly $5 million to remove 16,000 cubic meters of “lightly” contaminated soil. Only $500,000 had been authorized for this.
having a lot more KiwiRail and Vodafone cables to move than expected. The planners had “assumed minimal services”; some utilities were not shown on the KiwiRail maps.
a forced overhaul due to clashes with the railway traction poles.

The project started without knowing who would maintain the bike path. Hutt City Council appears to be doing so and with no agreement on relocating parking lots. Discussions with the Regional Council are ongoing.

In April, eight sites out of 12 were more than a month late. The completion date is now May 2023.

The delays prompted noise complaints from residents, he said.

The project cut costs by redesigning a crossing at Marsden St and parts of a ramp at Normandale, reducing resurfacing at the Petone station car park and accepting less sophisticated fencing.

Even so, the project in April, facing $4.6 million in additional Covid costs, spoke of needing more money.

Other complications include a breach of consents to pump heavy metal-contaminated water out of new underpasses.

Asked about reassurance that it knows what it is doing, the NZTA said yesterday the Petone project had ‘proven to be more complex than expected’, with challenges which ‘were not known in detail’ initially .

One option last November was to pull the plug. But “no benefit would be realized and the sunk cost is $41 million,” according to the OIA documents. Delaying it would cut the additional funding to one-eighth, but ultimately add $10 million to the overall costs, the board said.

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