North Shore City leaders want the next Waitemata Harbour transport crossing to be a tunnel rather than a bridge.
The city council's infrastructure and environment committee decided yesterday to reaffirm strong support for a tunnel, even though a shortlist from a $1.3 million multi-party quest for the best crossing route includes bridge options as well.
A study team commissioned by a partnership of the North Shore and Auckland cities with Transit NZ, the regional council and its transport subsidiary has until March to recommend the best option for a "consensus" decision.
The team has narrowed down a list of more than 160 possibilities to three broad options, two of which would involve crossing the harbour between Esmonde Rd and Wynyard Wharf, whether with a tunnel or a bridge.
Its third option, of a longer route between Esmonde Rd and Grafton Gully to draw traffic away from Auckland's commercial hub, would be restricted to a tunnel because of the impracticality of building a bridge high enough for container ships to pass below.
Deputy mayor Julia Parfitt said a tunnel would be preferable both for aesthetic reasons and with a view to upgrading the Northern Busway to a rail link in due course.
Councillor Tony Holman said the council supported a tunnel previously "and it should be clear we are not changing our position".
A resolution to that effect was passed unanimously, but not without an appeal from Councillor Chris Darby for the council to allow the study group to keep an open mind while continuing with its investigations.
Although one of the two Esmonde-Wynyard options is for a public transport crossing only, leaving the existing harbour bridge to take general traffic, Councillor Jan O'Connor said a tunnel should be provided for cars and trucks and the bridge left to buses, cyclists and walkers.
The council committee also supported adding a cycleway and walkway to the existing bridge in conjunction with Transit's plan to strengthen its two sets of clip-on lanes for $45 million over two-and-a-half years against fatigue caused by heavy trucks.
That would mean not having to wait for the new crossing, which study team director Richard Hancy told the councillors could take about 15 years to plan, design and build.