Harbour cycleway snag; cost blowout

A massive cost blowout has hit the proposed cycle and footpath to Port Chalmers, forcing its designers back to the drawing board.

The project, which would have a path between St Leonards and Port Chalmers built separate from vehicle traffic, was expected to cost $6 million and be completed within three years.

But ongoing detailed design work had shown the route, as proposed, would cost more than double that figure. That meant the cycleway, in its present design, would not be funded.

New designs were needed to cut the expected cost by more than half, New Zealand Transport Agency Otago Southland journey manager Graeme Hall said.

The cycleway is an NZTA project funded from a central pool of cycleway money. That fund is shared with other projects around the country.

Against those other projects, the Port Chalmers route was not considered viable at the new price, Mr Hall told a shocked Chalmers Community Board last night.

While board chairman Steve Walker and Dunedin city councillor Andrew Noone thanked Mr Hall for ‘‘fronting up'' to the board, both expressed concern at the news.

Mr Walker said he was ‘‘tremendously disappointed''.

‘‘I think perhaps we were given the illusion around this table ... [the current design] was going to happen.

‘‘For the board, it's been our No1 issue for a long time. The public will not be overjoyed. I think Dunedin, as a city, sees this as an asset way beyond West Harbour.''

Mr Hall said while it was ‘‘better to be cautious'', the project was not dead.

‘‘This isn't a no. They [engineers] are working as we speak. This is probably one step back. But we're still committed to progressing this.''

If the project did proceed, Mr Hall said he could not guarantee the original three-year timeframe, as budget and resource consent issues could cause delays.

After the meeting, Mr Hall said the goal was to find engineering and realignment changes to bring the cost below $6million.

However, if a safer option that delivered lower ongoing costs could be built for slightly more than $6million that would be considered, too.

Cr Noone requested confirmation the cost blowout was not connected to Tuesday's NZTA announcement of progressing plans for $8million separated cycleways along Dunedin's one-way system.

Mr Hall said the two projects' funding was unrelated.

NZTA Dunedin project manager Simon Underwood said the agency became aware of the situation in ‘‘the last few weeks''.

‘‘It's something that has recently come to light and we're responding to that.''

While the agency was ‘‘a long way from knowing'' where it would head with the project, scrapping it was ‘‘not one of the options we're looking at''.

‘‘We're not even thinking that way. At the moment, it's just about can we build the path cheaper. We just need to explore the options.

‘‘We have a few ideas we're exploring. It may be there isn't a better way to do it, but I don't think that's the case.''

Those ideas included redrawing the path the route could take and changing how the retaining walls along the Roseneath cutting were engineered.

Mr Hall said he would deliver an update to the community board at its April meeting.

craig.borley@odt.co.nz

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