Cyclists and walkers are closer to being allowed to use the Auckland Harbour Bridge after traffic chiefs conceded the crossing could be strengthened to carry a secure path under one of the clip-ons.
Beefing up the bridge's citybound clip-on to support a pathway would make the cost of a no-frills structure and access ramps $23 million. The previous estimate was $17.3 million.
A pathway working group - which includes the Getacross Campaign, a cycling and walking lobby - acknowledged cyclists and walkers would have to be restricted to ensure numbers on the bridge did not exceed allowable loadings.
But it is confident its basic proposal could be paid for by users through tolls - over 20 years instead of the 15 years suggested earlier - after which the pathway could be transferred to public ownership.
It proposes a $2 toll for holders of Auckland Transport's Hop cards, and $5 for casual users, to capture what it believes will be a strong tourismmarket.
More money may have to be raised through methods such sponsorship to pay for extras such as viewing platforms, and the group wants the Auckland Council to underwrite any revenue shortfall.
The Transport Agency's advisers previously said that the clip-on could not support the pathway.
They now say that to allow for 10 per cent growth in traffic over the next 20 years, no more than 300 or 400 people should be allowed on critical parts of the bridge at any one time.
A draft staff report to be presented to the Auckland Council's transport committee on Monday recommends a pathway be recognised as important.
Other draft recommendations include asking Auckland Transport to identify a budget to contribute to the project, as well as seeking money from the Government's Transport Agency - despite the agency earlier saying that the proposal would not be eligible for a subsidy.
Pathway group spokesman Bevan Woodward said last night that he believed the qualification on bridge loading meant a maximum load up to 400 people would apply only if bridge traffic increased by 10 per cent.
Even if the limit were applied earlier, there would still be enough users to pay for the basic project.
Transport Agency regional director Stephen Town said the agency was pleased with the collaborative approach of a technical steering group established under the Auckland Council's guidance, and looked forward to clear directions on the next steps from the transport committee.