Auckland Harbour Bridge: Dreams of Skypath for walking, cycling may not be dead after all

Dreams of cycling and walking over Auckland's Waitemata Harbour may not be dead after all.

Plans to build pedestrian and bike lanes over the current Harbour Bridge have run into significant engineering issues, again delaying the Skypath project - but Newshub has been told talks have taken place over building a new bridge parallel to the existing one.

Skypath was supposed to be bringing the 62-year-old Auckland Harbour Bridge into the future - but now its future could lie in a new path entirely.

The Automobile Association says discussions have taken place over building a parallel harbour bridge for pedestrians, bikes, and buses.

"Whatever approach they're taking they want to get right. We've just seen far too often with transport projects in New Zealand that we over-promise and can't deliver. If they're taking the time to get it right, in our view that's a good thing," says Automobile Association spokesperson Barney Irvine.

He says the SkyPath would be fully standalone. 

"We'd be talking about a new bridge, built directly alongside the existing bridge, but sitting on its own pylons, so a standalone bridge."

The new bridge would cost $2 billion.

Last month the transport association Waka Kotahi told a select committee the existing bridge can't be strengthened, casting doubt over SkyPath's future.

Walking and cycling advocacy group Movement says Waka Kotahi needs to deliver.

"There were so many delays and technical challenges that perhaps weren't obvious to them to start with. Perhaps it's time they consider an interim solution that's available to them," says chairperson Christine Rose. 

Transport Minister Michael Wood says the government is committed to walking and cycling across the Waitemata, but it's a complex engineering challenge. He says Waka Kotahi is working with the alliance appointed to deliver the project, to make sure the design is fit for purpose.

Any decision - and any construction - is still a long way down the road.

Movement says if SkyPath won't work, there's one solution that would cost much less - adding a designated cycle and walking lane to the existing bridge. 

"If that requires allocating a dedicated cycle and walking lane, and removing a general traffic lane from the harbour bridge, there's capacity to do that," Rose says.