Bridge on funding short list

A multimillion-dollar bridge linking Dunedin's inner city and waterfront has been short-listed for Government funds.

The Otago Daily Times has learned the bridge is among only a few New Zealand projects vying for the next allocation from the Urban Cycleway Fund.

An announcement is expected next month, and, if successful, the bridge could be considered for construction over the next three years.

The project would still require a council contribution, and also for planned cycleway work in the central city and North Dunedin to be reprioritised to make room for the bridge, the ODT understands.

However, if built, it would solve a perennial headache for pedestrians and cyclists wanting an easier route across railway lines from Queens Gardens to the harbour side.

It could also generate more foot traffic for harbour side businesses, and boost interest from developers in the waterfront.

The project had been raised before, only to be shelved, but re-emerged when city councillors discussed the project in non-public at last week's long-term plan deliberations.

Council budget changes signed off during last week's deliberations also showed a $2 million increase in urban cycleway funding forecast for 2017-18.

The ODT understands the increase anticipates progress on the bridge project, although councillors would have to make a final call if government funding was confirmed.

Mayor Dave Cull is in Japan and not available for comment, while council chief executive Dr Sue Bidrose said she was not present during last week's non-public discussion.

Council infrastructure and networks general manager Ruth Stokes would say only that a bridge in the area beside the Chinese Garden would be beneficial to the city.

It was a ''key intersection'' for cycleway routes across the city, as well as improving access to the waterfront and inner-city for pedestrians, she said.

''The connectivity, and not just for cyclists but for pedestrians from the central city straight through to the harbour - that's the key benefit.''

The project's re-emergence came more than four years after the council proposed one in 2011.

At the time, it planned to consider two options - a functional bridge costing about $1.5million, or a ''landmark'' structure costing up to $3.5million.

The idea was eventually shelved due to budget constraints, and later plans for a ''world class'' pedestrian and cyclist bridge, to be built along with Betterways' 27-storey waterfront hotel, collapsed with the hotel project last year.

A bridge has remained on the council's drawing board and was included in concept drawings for the council's 10-year Central City Plan.

An announcement on government funding was expected to come before the council signed off its long-term plan late next month, meaning the project could still be added to the 10-year plan.

Mrs Stokes said the most recent indicative figures for a bridge to the waterfront estimated a cost of ''about $3 million''.

Detailed design work would be needed to confirm the likely cost, but ''we'd be looking to achieve it within those bounds, given the budgetary pressures [on council]''.

''We certainly wouldn't want to be spending more than that.''

chris.morris@odt.co.nz

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