Bridge cost divides motorists

By Kieran Nash

Auckland Commuter Antony Wraight says a $6 to $8 toll is too much. Photo / Janna Dixon
Auckland Commuter Antony Wraight says a $6 to $8 toll is too much. Photo / Janna Dixon

Aucklanders are crying out for a second harbour crossing to ease pressure on the Harbour Bridge - and they are willing to put their money where their car is.

More than two-thirds of motorists in a new poll say they would be happy to pay a toll to use a new crossing, which city leaders favour to be parallel road-rail tunnels from Wynyard Quarter to Bayswater.

An exclusive Key Research poll of more than 500 Aucklanders, commissioned by the Herald on Sunday, shows 55.5 per cent would be willing to pay a dollar or two each time they use the new crossing.

Another 12.2 per cent would be willing to pay higher tolls of $3 or more.

But fewer than 1 per cent would pay a toll of $6 to $8, as proposed in a July report by the New Zealand Transport Authority. That toll, charged over 20 years, would fund a $5.1 billion pair of tunnels or a new bridge.

North Shore residents, who would use the crossing most, were the most divided over a toll.

While 14.1 per cent were willing to pay a higher toll of $3 or more, 21.8 per cent said they would refuse to pay a cent.

Small-business owner Brayden Jack said he would be prepared to pay only a couple of dollars to cross the harbour. Any more than that and it would be too expensive for him to operate his fleet of vehicles.

His cabling and security company has about 10 cars on the road, half of which cross the harbour every day. At $6 a crossing, the tolls would cost his business up to $1000 every week, which would be passed on to customers.

He said any toll should be for only a fixed number of years.

When asked if a $2 toll would be enough to cover the cost of a second crossing, Transport Minister Steven Joyce said: "I would doubt it but I think everyone understands that the funding would have to come from a number of sources, quite likely taxpayers, ratepayers and some form of tolls."

Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee said the discussion was a distraction from more urgent transport matters.

Commuter dreads 'unbearable' toll

Design engineer Antony Wraight commutes to the city from the North Shore and would rather not pay to cross the Harbour Bridge.

"I pay a lot of tax in income tax for roading. Unless it was imposed on me, I wouldn't be prepared to pay anything," said the 35-year-old.

He uses the bridge twice every weekday to get from his home in Hillcrest to his office in Eden Terrace.

In July this year, a report said a toll of $6-$8 would have to be imposed on the existing bridge and the new crossing to pay for the new road. "That's $60 to $80 a week. That's a couple of meals at a restaurant. That's just going to make it unbearable."

He said a toll would deter people from using the bridge.

- Herald on Sunday

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