When the new Transport Minister, Michael Woods, looks through all the drawers of Phil Twyford's old desk, he might be surprised to find a widely consulted but as-yet-unpublicised option for another Auckland Harbour Bridge.
If he hasn't found it yet, it might be in the file marked "Skypath" or whatever the planned bridge cycleway is called now. If it's not in there, he should call the chairman of the NZ Transport Agency, Sir Brian Roche, to ask him if he knows anything about it. Maybe it hasn't reached his desk yet.
But I know that somewhere in the Transport Agency an interesting new bridge proposal is being evaluated, seriously I hope. It has been submitted by qualified people outside the agency who have suggested Auckland now needs much more than a bikeway across the harbour.
The need for a second crossing close to the existing bridge become suddenly clearer in September when a gust of wind blew a truck against its superstructure, damaging a span and closing its central lanes for a short time.
Until then, I'd thought another harbour bridge was about the last thing Auckland needed. As every North Shore commuter knows, traffic flows more freely on the existing bridge, thanks to four lanes each way and a moveable median barrier, than it does on the motorway approaches from both directions.
Normally it is not wise to make a major infrastructural decision on the basis of an event that hadn't previously happened in the 60 years the bridge has been there. But we hadn't known it could be damaged by such a predictable hazard. That "freak accident" could happen at any time.
Suddenly an alternative crossing seems urgent. The main question is, should it be another bridge or a tunnel under the harbour?
The Transport Agency doesn't like tunnels, for good reasons. They are much more expensive than roads and less flexible. It's hard to widen a tunnel. The capacity of the Harbour Bridge had to be doubled within a few years of its opening. Thankfully it wasn't a tunnel.
But there's a reason a photo of the bridge is always used to illustrate Auckland's traffic congestion and it's not that the traffic has stopped, though a still photograph can suggest so. The reason is simply that the Auckland Harbour Bridge is so picturesque from any angle, at any distance.
Alone on the harbour, it's an elegant structure of sublime visual perfection for its position. Far from diminishing the lovely expanse of the Waitematā, it enhances it. A second bridge would ruin the vista. That's the only argument for a tunnel and it's compelling.
But the latest proposal put to the Transport Agency tackles that visual intrusion problem boldly, I'm told, by putting a new bridge right alongside the existing one and making it architecturally compatible. I'd like to see it.
The parallel bridge would be a completely independent structure standing on its own piles. As proposed, it would be a busway, completing the Northern Busway that stops just short of the bridge on both sides at present. But its design also includes a footpath and bikeway.
This, the proponents argue, would be much better than a cycleway attached to the existing bridge which, they believe, will unbalance it structurally and, I fear, visually.
While a freestanding bridge would cost billions more than an appendage to the present bridge, they are confident a business case will show much more value for the extra money than a bike and footpath that would cost $240 million at last report, pre-Covid.
This will be an interesting early test of the character of the new Government, freed from the need to reconcile NZ First and the Greens. It is a Labour Government presented with a big opportunity and an even bigger challenge.
It has given itself many more billions to spend on infrastructure to get us through a post-Covid recession. But it will know that if it wants to win another election it needs to choose projects that generate profitable, taxable activity, not simply add to the country's now overstretched public debt.
Nobody is more conscious of that need, I suspect, than Finance Minister Grant Robertson, now Minister of Infrastructure too. He has frequently acknowledged the legacy of Michael Cullen and Bill English, whose budgeting gave him the ballast we needed this year.
Whether the alternative crossing is to be a bridge or a tunnel it must not leave the city still dependent on a single bridge for the bulk of its vehicular traffic. The companion bridge has been proposed as a busway, probably to meet the Labour Party's public transport bias, but it could be accessible by other road vehicles when necessary.
For my money, it just has to be visually compatible with the lovely icon we have.