Auckland Harbour Bridge: Work on 'second crossing' expected to begin at end of the decade - Phil Goff

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff has promised there will be a second crossing connecting the Super City to the northern suburbs - yet construction isn't expected to begin until the end of the decade.

Traffic to-and-from the city has been significantly disrupted after gale-force winds toppled two trucks on Friday, causing damage to the structure of the Harbour Bridge. 

A truck was thrown on its side when strong winds accelerated to about 127kmh, blocking several centre lanes before the vehicle could be safely removed. A southbound truck was also blown to a tilt simultaneously, hitting the bridge's structure before righting itself.

A central strut was damaged and now needs to be replaced - damage that could take longer than five weeks to fix, according to the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA).

Although the Harbour Bridge is not the only road linking the CBD to Auckland's widespread commuter belt - with the western ring route via State Highways 16, 18 and 20 - it is heavily relied on as the single harbour crossing connecting the city's central, southern and eastern suburbs with the North Shore, as well as New Zealand's northern regions. 

In excess of 170,000 vehicles travel across the bridge each day. 

Mayor Goff is now guaranteeing a second crossing will be constructed, with planning and designation work already underway.

He says a tunnel beneath the harbour is the most likely option.

"There will be a second crossing. The predominance of evidence suggests that this should be a tunnel," Goff told Magic Talk's Road to the Election host Mitch McCann on Sunday.

"I suppose the obvious example in this case of a tunnel is that you don't catch the wind gusts, that goes without saying."

The latest estimates suggest the infrastructure - dependent on whether it caters for light or heavy rail as well as roading - will cost around $8 billion. 

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff. Photo credit: RNZ

The tunnel would be funded and organised by NZTA, Goff said, in cooperation with Auckland Council and the council-controlled agency Auckland Transport (AT).

The Mayor said construction is expected to begin towards the end of the decade.

"It is a massive undertaking - a tunnel right under the harbour," Goff said. "It is hard to see how you'll bring that forward, considering the sheer amount of planning and construction work that needs to happen - plus being able to magic up the $8 billion that you need, given the economic circumstances."

Goff reiterated the project requires "big money" that simply cannot be harvested from a "tree at the bottom of the garden", alongside the ongoing work to build Auckland's multi-billion-dollar City Rail Link - infrastructure that is "absolutely essential", he said.

He also hinted there's a "problem" with the amount of monetary and fiscal policies being promised ahead of October's election, following National's pledge to put "$3000 back into the pockets of average earners" with their proposed tax cuts.

"I sometimes wonder during an election campaign, where you talk about cutting taxes and spending more - there's a small problem with that you can probably see, it's pretty obvious," Goff said.

Meanwhile, frustration is building among Aucklanders as NZTA suggests it may take more than five weeks to replace the damaged strut, which will be manufactured locally. 

On Saturday, Devonport-Takapuna Local Board deputy chair George Wood called for more information on why the repair will take multiple weeks.  

"The public needs more information as to why this repair will take weeks and not just days - having the Auckland Harbour Bridge restricted to two lanes each way, for weeks, will be a huge penalty to the North Harbour and Auckland economy," he said.

Goff has reiterated calls for commuters to make use of the city's public transport, with a surplus of around 7000 bus seats available during the peak travel period. The council is also negotiating with Fullers to see if more ferry services can be added as another alternative.

Otherwise, commuters can opt for the western ring route via Greenhithe - which will be "busy", Goff said - or can try and stagger their hours or work remotely.

"This is the first time we've had something this serious in 60 years," he said. "It's one of those things that happens and you've got to cope with it."