Walk and cycle path takes a forward step

By Mathew Dearnaley

Len Brown. Photo / Doug Sherring
Len Brown. Photo / Doug Sherring

The marathon campaign for walking and cycling across the Auckland Harbour Bridge cleared another hurdle at the Town Hall last night, although councillors want more answers before underwriting it.

Council transport committee members voted seven to four to ask Auckland Transport to identify a budget for more investigations into the bridge pathway project, even though its promoters are confident it will become self-funding through tolls.

The committee also wants the council-controlled organisation to ask the Transport Agency to consider dipping into its state highway fund to contribute to the cause.

Despite his committee's ultimate support for pushing the project to the next level of investigations, chairman Mike Lee said he believed the bridge pathway promoters were being "over-enthusiastic" in pitching a function this weekend as a project launch.

The pathway group intends to unveil at the Wynyard Quarter on Sunday afternoon a design for a pathway under the city-bound clip-on.

Auckland Mayor Len Brown will speak at the event to offer support for the project, which depends on finance to be raised by Orewa-based Hopper Developments from an institutional investor.

A joint venture of Hopper and a walking and cycling trust wants to charge tolls, starting at $2 a crossing for holders of public transport Hop cards and $5 for casual users such as tourists, for 20 years before handing the pathway over to public ownership.

But that was vehemently opposed by transport committee member Cathy Casey, who said people should be able to cross the bridge free of charge.

North Shore councillor George Wood raised concerns on technical grounds, saying his constituents would not tolerate the addition of any structure which may weaken the structural integrity of the clip-on.

But Transport Agency regional adviser Chris Gasson confirmed to the committee that a preferred engineering option negotiated between the pathway group and his organisation "doesn't ultimately compromise the bridge".

The option would allow for a pathway of up to 4m wide, narrowing to 3.2m on the seven-span bridge's three northern spans, but with crowd management to limit loads on critical areas.

Engineers calculate the number of people allowed on the structure if traffic loads grow by a predicted 10 per cent by 2031 will need to be capped at 300 to 400.

Councillor Dick Quax questioned the point of the project if numbers had to be restricted, but pathway representative Bevan Woodward said five times the maximum would be able to cross the bridge every hour.

His group believes daily numbers from 1052 people in winter to 2520 in summer will be enough to cover the cost.

- NZ Herald

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