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Consultants have been engaged by the Dunedin City Council to explore the best route for cyclists to traverse the hills between Dunedin and Mosgiel.
Acting manager transportation planning Lisa Clifford confirmed yesterday Opus International had taken up a $50,000 contract to prepare a feasibility study into possible cycle routes.
In the company's "project brief" to the council last week, civil manager Grant Cox said work would begin immediately, with a "desktop assessment" of several options.
That would be followed by "an alignment investigation".
One possibility to be explored is the use of two old rail tunnels - one through the Caversham Hill and the other through the Chain Hills, near Wingatui.
Mr Cox said the tunnels had been identified "as suitable for the proposed cycleway", and Opus would need to carry out a "preliminary visual geotechnical and structural assessment" of the tunnels and entrance portals, to ensure they were stable and suitable for a cycle route.
The tunnels carried various council services, including a sewer, and the company would check the "compatibility" of the cycle route with those services, Mr Cox said.
A "site walkover" would identify any property owners affected and the extent of the land that would need to be acquired.
The report would include details of the cost and an evaluation of the economics.
Opus would also present the council with a "preferred option".
Ms Clifford said the study had begun while New Zealand Transport Agency funding for it was still "pending".
The tunnels route was only one option Opus had been asked to evaluate, she said.
Previous discussions between the council and the NZTA had considered linking residential access and paths between Lookout Point and Barnes Dr.
NZTA's planning for the Caversham highway includes a combined cycleway and walkway up the Caversham Hill.