Auckland to get second harbour bridge for walking and cycling

Confirmation a second Auckland harbour bridge is in the works has been hailed as a "great outcome" by a local Labour MP.

Cars and motor vehicles won't be allowed on the new bridge however, which will be just for walking and cycling.

The $685 million Northern Pathway project was announced on Friday by Transport Minister Michael Wood, as part of the New Zealand Upgrade Programme (NZUP) the Government announced in January.

Located on the eastern side of the existing crossing, the new bridge will replace the long-awaited Skypath clip-on.

"We need better connections to the city," Shanan Halbert - the MP for Northcote - wrote on Facebook.

"So I was pleased that Minister of Transport Michael Wood today confirmed a way forward for walking and cycling over the Waitematā and the Northern Pathway from Northcote. 

"There is no magic bullet that will solve all of our transport woes, it's about investing in multiple improvements and options. This is a great outcome for our local people."

Wood said "geotechnical investigations and testing" found the current bridge can't handle any more weight "without considerable modifications to counterbalance the increased load".

"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. 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."

According to the NZ Herald, the project will take about five years to get fully consented and built. Photos supplied to the paper show it will have seating and transparent walls, Wood saying it will be an "outstanding piece of tourism infrastructure".

The existing bridge is getting on. It was opened in 1959 and had extra lanes added a decade later. 

Waka Kotahi/The NZ Transport Agency said in February no more strengthening work on the aging crossing could be done, because of the sheer weight of the steel required. Heavy vehicles' use of the bridge might need to be restricted - probably not in the next 18 months, but sometime in the next 20 years, the agency said.

Labour MP David Parker said then it wasn't an "imminent" problem.

"It's a problem, it has to be fixed, but not tomorrow."

In 2019, Auckland mayoral candidate John Tamihere proposed building a monster 18-lane bridge across the harbour, that could have ample room for trains, bikes, pedestrians and motor vehicles. The plan, which he estimated would cost $10 billion, was ridiculed by incumbent Mayor Phil Goff, who said it was "dumb" and would bankrupt the city. Tamihere admitted he hadn't run the ambitious plan by Waka Kotahi, saying they'd "do as they're told" if he won the election - but he was defeated in a landslide.

Wood said another harbour crossing for vehicles was still being worked on. 

"An initial business case was finished last year, and work is being done on enhancing the Northern Busway and developing an additional crossing that includes rapid transit. Given the next crossing is likely to be a tunnel, it would be unsafe to have a walking and cycling link as part of it - that's why we need to build the Northern Pathway."

Other projects are expected to be announced at 9:30am on Friday.

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