Cycle project scaled back

The Dunedin City Council has been forced to pare back original plans for the controversial South Dunedin Cycle Network, as the true costs of the project become apparent.

Despite being reduced by almost half, the curtailed network is expected to cost about $5.5 million - $1 million more than original estimates for the whole network. The blowout may eat into funding set aside for the rest of the city's cycle network.

The council this week adopted a revised 14.8km network of cycleways criss-crossing South Dunedin, 10km less than it originally approved but retaining some crucial links across the area and between it and the central city.

Routes planned for South Rd, Forbury Rd, Macandrew Rd, most of Hillside Rd, the western end of Victoria Rd, Musselburgh Rise, Silverton St, Tainui Rd and through Tahuna Intermediate will no longer go ahead.

Staff presented councillors with three options after being able, for the first time, to more accurately estimate the cost of the project.

Senior transportation planner Lisa Clifford said previous cost estimates had been just that, as no similar network had been built in New Zealand.

Now the first stage was nearly complete and the tenders were in for the next stage, staff could see the actual costs.

Quiet streets (new to New Zealand) in particular, such as in Marlow St, were turning out to incur significant costs at intersections, and there were significant costs in retrofitting parking in new street layouts.

Based on what it now knew about costs, she said, the council would only be able to build 12km of the original 25km cycleway network within its original $4.5 million budget.

The network would cost as much as $7.85 million if built as originally approved by the council.

The revised network chosen would cost about $5.5 million and probably take a bit longer to complete because of the need to access more funding, also complicated by a drop from next year in the funding assistance rate available from NZTA for new capital projects.

The council would either have to increase the ratepayer share of the costs in 2015-16 by about $60,000 (bringing it to $410,000 that year) to push up the NZTA's contribution to the required level, or use some of the ratepayer money allocated for cycleway projects in 2016-17.

The council has budgeted to spend $350,000 on cycle projects in each of the next six years.

A decision about where the additional money will come from will be made as part of the long-term budget-setting process early next year.

The decision was made with relatively few questions from councillors, and no debate, at this week's infrastructure services committee meeting.

It was not what the council desired, Cr Jinty MacTavish said.

''We are in another invidious position that we are again unable to implement what we would have wanted to implement, for funding reasons.

''It's not ideal.''

Earlier in the meeting, Crs Mike Lord, Kate Wilson and Andrew Whiley peppered staff with questions about the amount of consultation they did, particularly around Marlow St, where more than 600 surrounding residents have signed a petition seeking to have the street returned to pre-cycleway design.

Staff said there had been two rounds of consultation last year.

Cr MacTavish acknowledged the network was having some impacts on residents, who were feeling disenfranchised.

''But I think those are issues we simply need to work through with those residents because this is a network that needs to happen.

''It's as much about a mental shift in the way we experience our roads and the way we experience the streets outside our houses as it is about physically changing our environment.''

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