Auckland cyclists will soon be pedalling high above traffic-snarled Spaghetti Junction on their own bridge.
Transport Agency contractors have begun clearing ground for the sweeping 160m bridge to run from Canada St, just below Upper Queen St, to the disused old Nelson St motorway off-ramp.
The bridge and off-ramp will be the key components of an $11 million two-way cycleway running down the western side of Nelson St to Victoria St by the end of the year.
An extension of the bikeway to Quay St and connections to Union St and Karangahape Rd via Pitt St will follow.
Hawkins Construction will build the bridge off-site to minimise disruption to motorway traffic, before placing it across two piers in an ambitious overnight operation.
Although the clearance of pittosporum shrubs and trees up to about 3m high has raised eyebrows among some passers-by, Cycle Action Auckland's Barbara Cuthbert says that is an acceptable sacrifice and the Transport Agency has a good track record of re-vegetating motorway corridors.
"It doesn't give me a single qualm - this bridge will be such an asset to Auckland and I am sure NZTA will be happy to plant more pittosporum," she said.
She is also looking forward to the image of free-flowing cyclists whizzing over grid-locked traffic.
"That is exactly the reality of Auckland - our roads are going to become more and more congested, but more and more people are going to use cycleways."
The project follows Transport Agency's completion of a $16.5 million bikeway last year from Upper Queen St to Beach Rd via Grafton Gully.
Although patronage has been modest so far, Mrs Cuthbert said the two cycleways would "feed each other" by creating more of a circuit through downtown Auckland for safer off-road riding.
The Government is paying $9.9 million for the new project, some of it from the $100 million urban cycleways fund it announced before last year's election, and Auckland Council is contributing $1.1 million.