Toll could pave the way for pedestrians

By Mathew Dearnaley

Walking and cycling campaigners are proposing a novel user-pays tolling scheme to blaze a pathway across Auckland Harbour Bridge in time for the 2011 Rugby World Cup.

The Getacross Campaign, supported by the Holmes Consulting Group of engineers, is today unveiling a proposal for a $12 million shared walking and cycleway it believes could be tucked under the outside cantilevered edge of the bridge's southbound clip-on.

That differs from an early proposal to widen the bridge's two clip-ons for a cycleway on one side and a walking path on the other, for what the Transport Agency said would be a prohibitive $43 million.

Although pedestrians and cyclists would be sheltered from vehicle emissions and bad weather, they would still gain sweeping views of Waitemata Harbour and the Auckland waterfront behind a perspex screen which could be opened in summer.

The campaigners say they are lining up potential providers of a loan of $10.5 million, to be repaid through a 25-year tolling scheme.

They are also seeking Transport Agency support for an application for $1.8 million from the Government's national cycleway fund.

Tommy Parker, the agency's northern highways manager, confirmed to the Herald that his organisation would consider the proposal as long as Getacross could guarantee construction costs.

An initial toll of 95c each way is proposed for users of a stored-value smart card such as for Auckland's proposed integrated public transport ticket, or $2.50c for cash or eftpos transactions through a barrier-controlled payment system, Children would cross the bridge for half price.

Getacross spokesman Bevan Woodward said he believed many tourists would be prepared to pay the higher toll, and a survey of the campaign's 11,000 registered supporters had indicated 95.5 per cent support for the user-pays idea.

Although there should ideally be no tolls for allowing cyclists and pedestrians access to the bridge, a pathway was unlikely to be built within 25 years without them. Mr Woodward also noted that motorists paid tolls to use the bridge for its first 25 years.

It was not only on cost grounds the Transport Agency rejected the earlier proposal, as it also feared adding loads to the edges of the clip-ons risked shedding 10 years off their remaining estimated life of 20 to 30 years.

Mr Parker confirmed that a report from consulting engineers Beca Infrastructure had found spare loading capacity on the southbound clip-on, because of a large number of empty trucks heading for the port.

- NZ Herald

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