$244m viaduct fails to allow for walkers

By Mathew Dearnaley

Pedestrians take back seat as mall's carpark plans delay walkway.

The Newmarket Viaduct. Photo / Dean Purcell.
The Newmarket Viaduct. Photo / Dean Purcell.

Auckland's newest transport infrastructure - the replacement Newmarket Viaduct - has been completed for $244 million without a promised volcanic-themed walkway beneath it.

The link down an embankment between Gillies Ave and Broadway is being delayed until shopping mall owner Westfield builds a car-parking building next door.

When guests including Prime Minister John Key attended a ceremony last week marking the viaduct's completion, some were disappointed to find empty land where the Government's Transport Agency promised a walkway.

"I was quite surprised when I saw it all fenced off and the embankment just barked over," said Auckland Council member and former Newmarket Business Association chief Cameron Brewer.

"The project has gone so well and the new viaduct structure looks great, but this walkway was promised to be the icing on the cake."

Walk Auckland president Andy Smith said the agency was failing to cater for people trying to wean themselves off fossil fuels.

"The one element which caters to people not using a car - the healthy element which will bring our stress levels down and create mental space and physical activity - is neglected again by the motorway builders," he said.

He feared a repeat of the Auckland Harbour Bridge saga in the 1950s, when a footpath was dropped to trim costs, only now to be revived as a tolled walking and cycling link.

The Transport Agency said in a community newsletter in 2010 that the new viaduct -then costed at $215 million - would not only enhance traffic flow along the country's busiest motorway but would "help breathe life back into a neglected part of Newmarket".

"The Newmarket Connection project will also provide an enhanced pedestrian experience, incorporating a volcanic-themed walkway from Gillies Ave to Broadway," it said.

But although the agency is now citing safety concerns and an alleged lack of pedestrian demand for not building the walkway, the council late yesterday said it was waiting to see what a neighbouring parking building for an enlarged Westfield shopping centre would look like.

"It was decided to wait until this development was complete before progressing with the walkway so it could be designed in light of this surrounding context and ensure the best possible outcome in terms of pedestrian amenity and safety," said planning manager Penny Pirritt.

"Council staff had made the decision in consultation with the Waitemata Local Board and Auckland Transport."

A spokesman could not say how long pedestrians will be kept waiting, but the Newmarket Business Association understands from Westfield that its new shopping centre could be constructed within 18 months.


No place for pedestrians

What was promised:
An enhanced pedestrian experience, incorporating a volcanic-themed walkway from Gillies Ave to Broadway.
What's there: An empty fenced-off embankment while pedestrians are kept waiting by a new car-parking building.

- NZ Herald

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