Auckland Harbour Bridge: Cycling group 'gutted' Skypath delayed due to technical issues

An Auckland bike group is "gutted" after the planned cycling and walking path over the Harbour Bridge ran into technical issues. 

The Skypath project is facing engineering issues and has been delayed. 

Chair of Bike Auckland Barb Cuthbert told Newshub the issue relates to the piers which support the bridge. 

"Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport have told me themselves that there is a technical issue to do with how the pathway is supported. So it's all to do with the piers it seems."

Cuthbert said the news is 'hugely disappointing" and "completely gutting". 

"There was huge enthusiasm...  in 2007 when Skypath Trust took off with their enormous 'Get Across' campaign, that was powered by the people." 

"That was fabulous and then Waka Kotahi was told in 2018 that they had to build it. So they came along with their new design. They build roads and bridges so we had reason to believe that if they say something can be built, it can be. But that turned out not to be the case which I've got to say is seriously disappointing."

She said while a long term solution is desperately needed, in the short term cyclists need to be given a lane on the Harbour Bridge to use. 

"Auckland is now growing with apartment development. There is a huge complex planned just right by the motorway on Esmonde Road and it is specifically designed to get people easy to the city, it has its own cycling bridges out the back and it's designed to link up and get people into town, so doing nothing is not an option."

"People riding electric bikes are now riding a long way and they want to get across the harbour. We can't rely on ferries because the public demand is too big so what we are going to have to do in the short-term is give one of the lanes on the bridge to people biking."

The Skypath is part of the $360 million dollar Northern Pathway project with $240 million earmarked for the bridge and $120 million to extend the pathway to the Akoranga bus station near Northcote. In 2019, Waka Kotahi said the plans were complete and construction was expected to begin in 2020. 

Transport Minister Michael Wood says reports the Skypath has been cancelled altogether aren't right - it has just been delayed. 

"We are committed to walking and cycling over the Waitemata. It hasn't been cancelled.

"The recent damage to the bridge has delayed the project and also highlighted how important getting the engineering right is.

"In September, Waka Kotahi NZTA appointed an alliance to deliver the project and that alliance is working on the design to ensure it is fit for purpose and protects the Bridge."

Waka Kotahi general manager of transport services Brett Gliddon said the project is a priority for the Government and NZTA. 

Gliddon said more information will be provided once the alliance has revised the project. 

"Building a walking and cycling connection across the harbour is a complex engineering challenge, and the recent damage to the Auckland Harbour Bridge re-enforces the need to ensure that the form and design of the connection delivers two things; connecting to the city's active mode network, giving people better options for getting between the North Shore and the city, as well as protecting a vital but vulnerable asset."

"This includes managing the main structure and extension clip-ons of the Auckland Harbour Bridge so that it continues to provide the connectivity needed to cater for all vehicles crossing the harbour.

"Our programme of ongoing monitoring, maintenance, upgrades and load management means the bridge is able to operate indefinitely as a key strategic asset in the Auckland network."

Gliddon said despite the ongoing work, weight restrictions are likely in the future to deal with heavy traffic. 

"Any restrictions would be determined by the growth in additional heavy vehicle traffic using the bridge in the future."

"The current maintenance strategy and traffic demand assumes restrictions will be needed within the next 20 years. 

"Mitigation could include limiting the lanes heavy vehicles can use, the number of heavy vehicles allowed on the bridge at any one time, or the time of day they are able to travel on the bridge."