Govt plans new Auckland bridge for cyclists, walkers

An illustration of the proposed Northern Pathway across the Waitemata Harbour. Photo: Waka Kotahi...
An illustration of the proposed Northern Pathway across the Waitemata Harbour. Photo: Waka Kotahi/ NZ Transport Agency
Transport Minister Michael Wood has confirmed the Government wants to build a new separate bridge for cyclists and walkers alongside the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

A second crossing has long been discussed in Auckland as the city grows rapidly.

The cost of the build is estimated to be $785 million, which includes $100 million for the land section.

In a statement, Wood said geotechnical investigations and testing had found that adding a structure to the existing bridge is not possible as the existing piers cannot take the extra weight.

"We need this transport connection to move ahead but it isn't technically possible to attach it to the existing bridge without putting the whole structure at risk," he said.

"A stand-alone structure is the safest option that will not only provide a walking and cycling option for commuters but creates an outstanding piece of tourism infrastructure."

What the Northern Pathway could look like from a user perspective. Photo: Waka Kotahi/NZTA
What the Northern Pathway could look like from a user perspective. Photo: Waka Kotahi/NZTA
The announcement comes a week after more than 1000 cyclists forced their way onto the Harbour Bridge, closing two northbound lanes.

"The New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP) is supporting our economic recovery, but due to Covid-19 increasing construction costs globally, and the need to further reduce emissions, we're rebalancing the programme to increase investment in rail, public transport and walking and cycling," Wood said.

"Northern Pathway is the missing link in Auckland's walking and cycling network and Aucklanders finally will be able to get across the harbour by foot or bike."

National Party leader Judith Collins. Image: RNZ
National Party leader Judith Collins. Image: RNZ

KICK IN TEETH FOR AUCKLANDERS, SAYS COLLINS

The announcement of a second harbour bridge in Auckland is a kick in the teeth, considering other projects have been cancelled, National Party leader Judith Collins says.

Collins said the decision was "extremely disappointing" for those living in the south of the city.

"Mill Road has been now cancelled again by the government after being put on hold, resurrected and now cancelled. We've got the Drury train station cancelled. We've got the widening of State Highway 1 from Papakura to to Drury cancelled and yet in Drury we've got a township that is supposed to rival Hamilton over the next several decades.

"I see the most ridiculous decisions going on and it seems to have nothing to do with economic growth," she said.

Collins said a new replacement bridge that was strong and widened for vehicles, pedestrians and cyclists would "only cost $2 billion".

"We have heard evidence from NZTA... that a new inline bridge would be able to be built beside the Harbour Bridge now that would cost $1 billion or a widened one that could take in a cycleway for $2 billion. Instead, the Government is going to spend close to $700 million on simply a new cycleway and walkway.

"How many people are seriously going to be taking their kids to school, the netball team to sport ... across the bridge?"

More than 1000 cyclists forced their way onto the Harbour Bridge last week, closing two...
More than 1000 cyclists forced their way onto the Harbour Bridge last week, closing two northbound lanes. Photo: Waka Kotahi/ NZTA

TEMPORARY TRIALS ON HARBOUR BRIDGE

Waka Kotahi/ NZ Transport Agency would continue to work on how to provide safe temporary trials of using lanes on the existing harbour bridge for cyclists and pedestrians, he said.

NZTA said the stand-alone crossing would cost about $785 million, though it also warned costs would need to be refined.

It planned to start the process of securing approvals later this year using the Covid-19 Recovery fast-track legislation.

Construction could begin at soonest in the middle of next year. It would take somewhere between two and five years to complete.

But Wood told RNZ's Morning Report programme today it may take as long as "five or six" years.

"It's a missing link in Auckland's cycling network... and it's part of our broader plan to make sure Aucklanders have good access across the Waitematā Harbour."

It is "a significant investment" but the Climate Commission's recent report has stressed the importance of providing safe cycle and pedestrian networks.

It should also be seen as part of broader transport infrastructure package that includes roading and rail projects as well, Wood said.

Work is also being done on the next Waitematā harbour crossing and how public transport options can be improved. Initial work will include improvements to the North Shore busway and services across the harbour in the next few years.

The preferred option for public transport in the long-term is a tunnel, Wood said, so that obviously would not be a suitable option for cyclists and walkers.

"The most important thing that we can do [for public transport options] is to make improvements to the North Shore busway at the approaches to the bridge.

"The chokepoint for public transport isn't actually getting across the bridge - it's making sure that we have adequate access to the North Shore busway either side of the bridge..."

If a public transport option had been added to the bridge announced today it would have added $1 billion to the costs.

He has asked Waka Kotahi to look at short-term walking and cycling options for the current Auckland Harbour Bridge - perhaps making one lane available on Sundays, but authorities would need to ensure it would be safe and resilient.

"One of the most important things that we can do to help unclog our congested roads in Auckland and our other major cities and towns is to give people good public transport walking and cycling options."

Initial estimates suggest 5000 walkers and cyclists will use the bridge daily, however, overseas experience shows that they gain popularity very quickly, Wood said.

Comments

Still riding high after a successful Kiwibuild, planting billions of pine trees, uniting the population & stamping out racism under one law for all and eliminading New Zealand's appalling child abuse, mental illness and suicide figures.

It would be laughable, if it wasn't so utterly, utterly tragic...

The govt must have solved the homeless problem, the child poverty problem, the housing problem etc to be spending $785 million on a bridge, they will be flush with cash.

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