Auckland cyclists should be able to ride their own off-road "super highway" from Te Atatu to the Waitemata waterfront by the end of 2015.
The Transport Agency expects to start construction in October on a 2.1km extension of the popular Northwestern Cycleway, to be built in two stages through Spaghetti Junction and Grafton Gully to Beach Rd. From there, it will be up to Auckland Transport to complete a link across the eastern railway line to the waterfront, along a route yet to be finalised.
Both organisations will outline their plans tonight to a meeting of Cycle Action Auckland, a strong advocate of the project.
Transport Agency northern highway manager Tommy Parker said yesterday that the project was at the top of his organisation's national list for cycling and walking. It had a budget of $10 million for its lion's share of the extension, although he hoped "sharp pricing" would allow it to be built for less.
Auckland Transport has yet to confirm an estimate for its part of the project, although community transport manager Matt Rednall said the aim was to complete a high-quality link to the waterfront by late 2015.
The 13km Northwestern Cycleway now ends at the intersection of Ian McKinnon Drive and Upper Queen St, although its final section from Newton Rd includes loops and bends avoided by many commuter cyclists.
Although Cycle Action Auckland hopes for a third stage, involving a cantilevered addition to the edge of Ian McKinnon Drive, Transport Agency project manager Scott Wickman said that was deferred after being estimated to cost about $3 million. Riders wanting to stay on the cycleway will therefore still have to dismount at two sets of traffic signals on Ian McKinnon Drive.
They will have their own cycle lane on the road bridge across Spaghetti Junction but will have to dismount again at an enhanced pedestrian crossing of Upper Queen.
From there, the cycleway extension will follow the motorway corridor east and then north through Grafton Gully, skirting historic cemetery land, to Wellesley St.
Cyclists will be then be able to head to the city centre either along Wellesley St, via the university precinct or through the gully to the waterfront.
Mr Wickman said it was expected to prove popular with university students, and giving cyclists an alternative to the dangers of riding among traffic down Symonds St had boosted the economic case for the project. It had a projected economic return of $4.61 for every dollar of cost.
Cycle Action Auckland chairwoman Barbara Cuthbert said the extension was a major development which would continue to boost rider numbers.
"It is known as the cycling super highway," she said of the Northwestern route, which will ultimately extend to Westgate, and include a connection to the Southwestern Cycleway running from Manukau Harbour.
Cycle Action Auckland is holding a public meeting on the project at 7pm tonight at the Pioneer Women's Hall, Freyberg Place.