Public safety is the heart of the $67 million SkyPath cycleway and walkway over the Auckland Harbour Bridge, says Transport Minister Phil Twyford.
The greatest possible rigour will be brought to bear on the safety and the resilience of the structure, he said.
Twyford was speaking in Auckland today where he and Greens co-leader James Shaw announced a $390m, three-year cycling and walking package across the country and reiterated the Government will fully fund SkyPath.
I sit back and just watch the whole thing move forward as if it is the most obvious thing since the invention of the wheel
Twyford said the New Zealand Transport Agency was doing detailed design work on SkyPath and would not comment on whether structural strengthening was needed for what Shaw described as a "clip-on on a clip-on".
Bridge safety has been thrown into the spotlight after the deadly collapse of the part of the Morandi Bridge in the Italian port city of Genoa that claimed the lives of 43 people and forcing the evacuation of more than 600 people living beneath another section.
Last week, NZTA told the Herald the Auckland Harbour Bridge has a team of engineering specialists that undertake a wide range of activities to ensure the safe and reliable operation of the bridge.
After engineers warned in 2007 of potential for "catastrophic failure" in a worst-case scenario, 920 tonnes of extra steel was bolted and welded onto the clip-ons to extend the life of the bridge.
Twyford said the bridge is a huge piece of engineering that has stood the test of time well, but public safety had to be put at the heart of decisions like building SkyPath.
Shaw said SkyPath is the most obvious cycling link between the North Shore and the Auckland isthmus, while Auckland Mayor Phil Goff called it a red letter day for the city.
"The $390 million package will be the single largest investment ever in walking and cycling ... and represents a $96m increase on the previous three years," Shaw said.
Twyford would not give a completion date for SkyPath, but Bevan Woodward, the driving force behind the project, said he believed it would be built by the beginning of 2021.
The 3km SeaPath project connecting SkyPath with Takapuna, via a route alongside the motorway and Esmonde Rd, would be looked on favourably to be fully funded by the Government, Twyford said.
He said other projects in the $390m package would be known when the National Land Transport Programme is announced on Friday next week.
Woodward, who has been actively fronting SkyPath since 2004, said politics had affected what seemed like a no-brainer.
"If we still had a National Government it would not have been funded. Now with the change of Government I sit back and just watch the whole thing move forward as if it is the most obvious thing since the invention of the wheel," he said.
Bike Auckland's Barb Cuthbert said today's announcement is backed by decades of work to make SkyPath a reality, fulfilling a huge and long-felt need.
"Like the Waterview Tunnel, this project will be used and celebrated by thousands of Aucklanders every day, and will change lives. Not only will SkyPath allow people to ride from the Shore to the City, it will also enable travel from out west along SH16, from the east along Tamaki Drive, and from the southside via the wonderful new SH20 and Waterview cycleways," she said.
The Cycling Action Network's Patrick Morgan said it was great news whether you rode a bike or not.
"This is not just about getting on your bike. We're all better off with less congestion, lower transport bills, cleaner air and better health. That's why the AA supports cycling."
Morgan credited successive Governments for their commitment to improving walking and cycling.
"The previous National-led Government set the pedals in motion. Now under the leadership of Phil Twyford and Julie Anne Genter we are getting up to speed."
"More people on bikes is the best bang for the buck in transport investment."
Living Streets Aotearoa president Andy Smith said SkyPath will be a wonderful connection for Auckland's walkers, runners and wheelchair users as well as cyclists.
"SkyPath gives Auckland's feet a lift," said Smith, who has been part of the SkyPath project since it started in 2014.