Design issue for bridge

There is agreement a double-lane bridge over the Kawarau River is necessary, but what design it should take and whether it should connect to Roberston St in Frankton is an issue in a three-day hearing which began yesterday.

The New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) is seeking to alter a designation to provide for the construction, operation and maintenance of a new Kawarau Falls Bridge on State Highway 6, near Frankton and Kelvin Heights.

The agency has proposed the new bridge, which would be located immediately downstream of the existing bridge, be 252m long and 14m wide.

In the opening legal submissions, read yesterday by Nicky McIndoe, counsel for the NZTA, it was said ''the design of the proposed bridge is deliberately understated''.

''The proposed bridge will be located in the context of an outstanding natural feature (i.e. the Kawarau River corridor), and the bridge design makes no attempt to compete with that feature for attention.''

Suggestions that a more ''aesthetically iconic'' bridge would be more appropriate were dismissed in the agency's submission.

The NZTA said that while the selected design may not be the favoured option for some submitters ''this does not mean the NZTA's design is wrong or flawed''.

''The NZTA submits that some of the other design choices favoured by submitters [and] experts would not meet the NZTA's project objectives.''

None of the nine submissions opposes the project but the NZTA acknowledged three submitters - the Frankton Community Association, Remarkables Park Ltd and the Otago Regional Council - did not totally agree with the agency's design.

''These submitters favour a connection to Robertson St, a bridge alignment which is located further away from the existing bridge, a concrete (rather than steel) bridge design, a bridge which is wider or has an additional tier, additional trails and provision of steps (in addition to the graded paths already ... provided).''

The agency said none of the suggestions put forward by the submitters ''are actually required in order to mitigate any of the project's effects''.

Remarkables Park Ltd argued a connection to Robertson St from the new bridge would provide access from the south to the Frankton Flats, which is earmarked for significant future commercial, retail, employment and education facilities.

NZTA senior project manager Philip Dowsett said traffic congestion at the bridge during peak times was exacerbated most recently on December 30.

Some vehicles left long distances between themselves and those in front and this resulted in the traffic light sensors detecting only one vehicle queuing ''and the phasing adjusted to favour the northern queue''.

Contractors were posted the following day to help ease vehicles over the bridge.

The hearing is scheduled to continue today and tomorrow in Queenstown and is being heard by independent commissioners Denis Nugent and Jane Taylor.