Friday, July 07, 2023

A road to happiness

Something amazing has happened, something that will quite literally change EVERYTHING for me and that will reconcile my strained relationship with Hamilton: A new road opened. That may seem like an odd thing to say, but, in reality, I’m probably understating its importance.

I can’t remember if I’ve talked about it here (though if I have, it wouldn’t have been much), but when I bought my house I was told about a road that was going to be built connecting our housing development (“subdivision”, in Americanese) directly to the rest of Hamilton. Specifically, it would connect us to one of the most important intersections in this part of the city, one that, in turn, connects we with pretty much everywhere I’d want to go in the city.

At the time, with the development was only partly finished (though all the streets were completed(, and the long alternative route to get to the same place didn’t bother me. After all, I’d come from the last house that Nigel and I shared, and to get anywhere from their required a 20 minute (or more) drive.

Over time, more houses were built, including in new developments nearby, and still there was no action on the new road. It became a labyrinthine tale of many, many missed deadlines, of political intrigue, including the city council trying to change the deal after the fact, and also lots on unexpected things—like Covid lockdowns, the resulting global supply chain disruptions, and geotechnical issues on site that turned out to be complicated. In addtion, the developer and city council kept arguing over who was responsible for paying for changes the geotechnical issues required. In other words, a more or less normal developer vs. city council relationship pushed completion out to more than six years after the development itself was begun.

I actually began this post a couple weeks ago when we got word that the project was finished, the city council had signed-off on all the approvals, and the developer had filed the paperwork to transfer ownership of the new road to Hamilton City Council, a process that “should”, the developer told us, take 10-12 business days (weekends don’t count), and that the road “should” open the week of June 26. I hesitated finishing this post because after all the delays and frustrations, I was sceptical. It turned out, that scepticism was well-placed.

It turned out that the government body responsible to registering property titles was taking longer than it should have, so the developer followed up—twice—and the agency then told them they needed two more bits of information to complete the transfer. That was done the same day—June 29— and it was where things stalled again.

Finally, on July 5—the day before yesterday—the developer confirmed that title had been transferred and their contractors would start removing the barriers, construction fencing, etc. Them without fanfare, the road opened yesterday evening.

I don’t like driving in the dark, if I can avoid it, so I drove on for the first time today, and took Leo with me. I was surprised at how short the road is—a couple hundred metres or so—and I couldn’t help but think, “all that hassle and frustration for THIS?!!

Of course, there’s more to it that just the distance of a football pitch: There will be a commercial area, including some shops, going in the area around that road, a school is going to be nearby, and two other roads connecting to even more development areas will connect one day.

Today I noticed that what will be the intersection with those new roads is all set up for traffic lights when the roads are built, and the fact they’re ready to go suggests that it may not be too long before those roads are begun—at least, maybe not as long as it took for our new road to be built.

For me, this new road is all about connection: I’ll be able to take the shortest route to the intersection with Te Rapa Road, the main North/South route in this part of the city. I need to get to that intersection in order to get to nearly everywhere I go in the city, including The Base shopping centre (where the mall Te Awa is located, along with one of the home centres I go to, among other shops). It’s also the road with the other home centre, both supermarkets, my dentist, and Leo’s vet. Going through that intersection is the way to my doctor, the family who live on the eastern side of the city, and even to the other mall I’ve been to, Chartwell. In fact, there’s pretty much no place in the city that I drive to that I couldn’t get to by going over the new road.

However, for the past three and half years the only way for me to get to that intersection with Te Rapa was to drive south, turn left from a stop sign onto a usually very busy road, get through a very heavily trafficked roundabout (fed by three busy roads), get through a traffic light to get to another traffic light that provides access to the road that was just connected to the new road. Depending on traffic, getting from my house to that last traffic light can take 10 to 15 minutes. With the new road, it’ll take, at most, 5 minutes to get to that same traffic light—well, until the new connecting roads open, but the new route will still be far more direct.

Shaving 10 minutes off a round trip may not sound like much, even if you take into account that the time saving can be more than that on some days or at some times, but it also means dramatically less hassle to get to the places I want to go. There have been many times when I wanted to pick something up, looked at the time, calculated how busy the roads were, and then decided not to go, putting it off until a better time the next day. I won’t have to do that anymore.

Also, the area I live has had very poor public transport. The new road will connect our area with the transport hub which is where the train to/from Auckland stops, and that also is a hub for several bus routes. When the new road opens, a new bus route will connect us not just to that transport hub, but also to the centre of the city—where car parking is notoriously bad, so much so that I avoid ever driving there (it then continues on to the university in the eastern part of the city, then back). That new bus may or may not be if any use to me, but it’ll make a huge difference to the quality of life for those of us living in the area now, and the several hundred more who’ll move here in the next couple years as the several housing developments currently under way are completed.

The development I live in is only about half done: A housing area hasn’t been started yet, and others in the area aren’t yet completed. That new small-scale business area around the area of the new road is likely to include a cafĂ©, a superette of some sort, and some office space. When that stuff gets built, I’ll be able to walk up to buy a bottle of milk instead of having to drive somewhere. Maybe they’ll have a place I can grab a coffee, too.

Add all this together—faster and low-hassle access to the places I go to the most frequently, the improvement in public transport, the opening of some businesses, and, eventually, Council building the parks and recreation space they’ve also promised, and this will become a lively, desirable area to live. This area will finally become the sort of area I actually wanted to be in when I was looking for a house in Hamilton. Back then, there was no reason to think it’d take this long to get to this point, but I now know that sometimes it really is about the destination, not the journey.

And Leo? Well, he’s not actually very keen about going for a car ride, probably because I strap him in, and when we got back home after our short ride, he wasn’t ready to go back inside. So, we went for a walk around the block, the first time we’ve ever done that (we have, of course, done shorter walks). Best of all, Leo also peed on a walk for the first time ever.

Who could’ve ever guessed that a new road could cause so many good things?

This post has been updated. Follow the link to see the update.


Pollyanna_H said...

What lovely news!
(Christine from Wellington, constant reader, very infrequent commenter)

Arthur Schenck said...

Thanks—it definitely is! Also, for the record, your comments are always welcome, no matter how frequent or infrequent.