$6 toll to cross Auckland Harbour Bridge

By Mathew Dearnaley

Tolls were charged on Auckland Harbour Bridge until 1984. Photo / Steven McNicholl
Tolls were charged on Auckland Harbour Bridge until 1984. Photo / Steven McNicholl

Would you pay the toll? Email newsdesk@nzherald.co.nz

Transport Agency consultants believe tolls of $6 to $8 could pay for a new Auckland harbour crossing.

The tolls would be charged on the new crossing and the existing harbour bridge.

The figures are in a report which the Auckland Council has circulated to local boards on options for building and paying for a $5.1 billion pair of motorway tunnels, or a new bridge for up to $3.9 billion.

Preliminary investigations suggest a new bridge could be fully paid for with a toll of $6 each way to use it and the existing bridge, and an $8 toll would be needed to pay for the tunnels.

The agency believes a new crossing will be within 20 years as the existing bridge's clip-on lanes start wearing out.

The consultants say the national land transport fund could not pay for it alone.

But traffic forecasts showed harbour crossings were likely to halve by 2041 with a $6 toll and drop to 40 per cent with an $8 toll.

An Automobile Association poll published last month showed 47.5 per cent of its Auckland members would be prepared to pay a $4 toll to use a new harbour crossing, but only 8.2 per cent would pay $6.

The Government and the Transport Agency say they are a long way from making decisions about funding options.

A spokesman for Transport Minister Steven Joyce said the new crossing would be an expensive project, demanding a combination of funding sources, "but it's too early to say what those will be".

In its infrastructure investment plan, issued yesterday, the Government says it is likely to look at user charges such as road tolls to help pay for projects.

The bridge consultants' report has horrified some North Shore local politicians.

The Kaipatiki Local Board, covering a large area including Glenfield and Birkenhead, has passed a resolution opposing any tolls on the existing 52-year-old bridge.

Board member Vivienne Keohane said yesterday that the toll suggestions were "absolutely outrageous".

"A lot of people wouldn't be able to travel to work - imagine paying $60 to $80 a week out of your wages."

Mrs Keohane said North Shore residents such as herself, who had lived in Glenfield since 1968, had paid for the bridge during its first 25 years, and would not accept a new toll.

A bridge toll of 25c was abolished in 1984, four years after a rise from 20c imposed by the Prime Minister Robert Muldoon's National government was blamed for party candidate Don Brash losing a byelection for East Coast Bays.

But Kaipatiki board chairwoman Lindsay Waugh, one of two members who opposed Mrs Keohane's resolution, said a new crossing had to be paid for somehow although it was too early to debate what toll would be acceptable.

"I think we have to get real - there isn't a money tree," she said.

She was interested in a suggestion to her board by Council for Infrastructure Development chief executive Stephen Selwood that a toll should be levied on Auckland's motorway network.

"This next crossing is going to be State Highway One so why should it be people in one area who pay for it?"

Mr Selwood told the Herald a high toll on harbour crossings was not the solution "because of the distortionary impact".

"You'd be far better to have a low-level toll across the motorway system which has the potential to raise a significant level of funding," he said.

A Ministry of Transport proposal in 2006 to set up a series of tolling points across Auckland, which would have included a $6 fee to cross the harbour bridge at peak times, was abandoned after public opposition.

North Shore MP Wayne Mapp said tolls should be considered as a contribution to the next crossing, but $3 was probably "about as high as you can go".

BRIDGE FACTS

* 158,142 vehicles - average daily traffic volume last year.

* $949,000 - daily revenue from a $6 toll assuming unchanged volume.
* $474,500 - assuming only 50 per cent of untolled traffic volume.

* $1,265,000 - daily revenue from $8 toll.
* $506,000 - assuming 40 per cent of untolled volume.

- NZ Herald

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