A competition to design an iconic bridge across the Wairoa River is expected to be announced as part of the $7.7 million project to build a cycleway from Omokoroa to Bethlehem.
Project leader Gary Allis said their aim for the $2.5 to $3 million bridge was for it to be something quite iconic, like the new cycle trail bridge just outside New Plymouth.
The 110m-metre bridge was the single biggest cost of the 19km trail that, together with cycleways to Maketu, Te Puke and Paengaroa, would cash in on the boom in cycling tourism, as well as becoming handy commuter links and popular trails for local cyclists and walkers.
"It will put people on bikes rather than in cars."
Mr Allis, the Western Bay District Council's infrastructure manager, said the Wairoa bridge was currently going through geotechnic and resource consent investigations after which it was likely that the design competition would be announced.
The Omokoroa to Bethlehem cycleway was expected to be finished mid-2018, with the main bridge funded by the Western Bay and Tauranga councils, the New Zealand Transport Agency, Kiwi Rail, Powerco and the Tauranga Trails Trust.
In the meantime, the Western Bay council was busy consenting other sections of the route from Omokoroa, with the option of clip-ons on to the two rail bridges costing about another $1 million. Mr Allis said they were also looking at building stand-alone bridges on the 40m and 80m crossings from Omokoroa to Bethlehem.
He said they were using existing walkway and cycleway routes where possible for a path that would be wide enough to allow cyclists to safely pass walkers.
On the other side of Tauranga, the Western Bay council in conjunction with the transport agency had recently opened the 3.8km cycleway to Paengaroa.
The same intersection where cyclists came off the Tauranga Eastern Link's cycleway would also become the starting point for the planned cycleway across to Te Puke, but construction was at least three years out.
Mr Allis said their main focus for this area was the 2km of cycleway linking the Tauranga Eastern Link with Maketu from Kaituna Rd. "We are in the planning stages for that."
As soon as Papamoa connected to the motorway, the cycleway would get a lot more use, but that depended on the pace of development at Papamoa East. Based on current growth, it might happen in two years.
The big vision was a cycleway that stretched from Waihi to Maketu. Planning for the northern end of this vision was well advanced and awaited the conclusion of negotiations with landowners to allow construction of a $1 million to $1.5 million path from Waihi to Waihi Beach.
Mr Allis said a lot of Tauranga cyclists and walkers would use the path to Omokoroa. It would also appeal to people who commuted into the city to work.