Plans to sling a walking and bike path under the Auckland Harbour Bridge have become a preferred choice of the Transport Agency, provided it is paid for by tolls.
The agency has confirmed putting on hold its consideration of an alternative non-motorised link associated with a new harbour crossing to be built by 2030, in favour of the SkyPath proposal, representing a substantial change in its stance.
"The SkyPath is the preferred option, provided it proceeds on the basis of being a tolled facility and the NZTA is not the underwriter of the toll revenue and patronage risk," agency northern director Stephen Town told the Herald.
SkyPath campaigners hope their $29 million to $31 million link will open the 54-year-old bridge to pedestrians and cyclists by the end of next year. That is subject to an agreement by Auckland Council to share an underwriting risk with the Public Infrastructure Partnership Fund, which is backed by the NZ Super Fund and has offered to pay the construction bill in return for a 25 per cent share of any toll profits.
A survey of 1083 Aucklanders by Horizon Research shows 81 per cent support for the project, and 5 per cent against.
A pathway trust including representatives of walking and cycling groups and the Heart of the City business association is proposing tolls of $2 each way for Hop card users, $3.50 for those wanting to linger at either of two observation decks cocooned under the bridge's city-bound clip-on traffic lanes, and $6 one way or $8 return for tourists.
Heart of the City chief executive Alex Swney envisages a tourism boom from giving visitors a chance to walk or cycle to Northcote Pt from a $5.8 million pathway to be built by Waterfront Auckland through Westhaven this year.
The council would share profits and take ownership of the pathway after 20 years. Its transport committee will on Wednesday consider a staff recommendation to support the project in principle.