Funding blow for cycleway plans

How to fund more cycle lanes in Dunedin will be hotly debated at next week's pre-draft long-term plan deliberations, after the New Zealand Transport Agency reduced its contribution to the project.

The Dunedin City Council has plans to build a cycle network across the city and is about half-way through building one through South Dunedin.

It is also working with the NZTA on a separated cycle lane for State Highway 1 through the central city and will begin planning a Central City/Northeast Valley cycle network, which will have the SH1 lane as its spine, in the next month or so.

At present, the city-wide network, which is planned to eventually stretch to Mosgiel, Brighton and around the city's hill suburbs, is expected to be finished in 2027-28.

But changes to the NZTA's co-funding rate mean it is uncertain how the remaining work will be funded.

Previously the NZTA paid 66% of the cost of the projects.

That will drop to 59% in 2015-16, and decrease by 1% a year until it reaches 51%.

That means the council would have to either spend more to build the cycle networks in the same time frame, or they will take longer to complete.

There is also the consideration that investing more now would potentially save the council money in the long run, as the proportion the NZTA will cover decreases.

In a report for councillors, DCC senior transportation planner Kylie Huard notes a new national urban cycleway fund, announced last year, could potentially cover a third of the cost of cycleway projects.

But how it will work is not finalised, and it seemed projects would already have to be approved, with funding committed, to be considered for assistance.

The DCC's budgets for the next 10 years include $1 million a year for the network. They note the cost will be partially covered by the NZTA.

Ms Huard identified four options for councillors to consider: Spend about $70,000 extra in 2015-16 to cover the decrease in NZTA's contribution, and about $10,000 more each year after that as NZTA's contribution decreases, to ensure the project is completed as originally planned; Continue contributing the current amount, about $340,000 a year, and delay the completion of the network; Increase the rates-funded contribution in the short term to take advantage of the higher rate of NZTA co-funding before it decreases; Decrease the rates-funded contribution, which would provide savings to council in the short term and give the community time to accommodate parking changes and evaluate current cycle facilities, but also mean the network would cost the council more in the long run.

Ms Huard said providing more cycleways in Dunedin had provoked strong feelings.

Supporters, believed the city had a fragmented cycle network that was generally unsafe. Opponents were concerned about parking losses, reduced access and disproportionate funds being allocated.

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