Auckland mayor Phil Goff says a new bridge alongside the Auckland Harbour Bridge for buses, cyclists and walking would be a positive outcome if the SkyPath project cannot proceed.
The downside, he said, is it would take longer to build when Aucklanders are keen to walk and cycle from the North Shore to the city as soon as possible.
The mayor was commenting on a Herald story saying transport officials are believed to be secretly planning a new bridge alongside the Auckland Harbour Bridge for the Northern Busway, a cycleway and walkway.
The Herald understands work on evaluating a new bridge has been under way for some time but is being kept under wraps for the Government to make an announcement.
Goff said the council is strongly supportive of a walking and cycling link between the North Shore and the city centre. This would have major benefits, allowing people to commute to work and for recreational and tourism walking and cycling.
"It would be hugely disappointing if there were technical engineering challenges to proceeding with the earlier plans for the Northern Pathway, particularly since money has been put aside for this purpose," said the mayor.
The Automobile Association's infrastructure spokesman Barney Irvine also believes a parallel bridge is worth looking at, saying it could achieve a lot of benefits faster and cheaper than a proposed $5 billion rail tunnel not set to begin construction until the late 2030s.
"It might buy us a bit of time before we need the full Monty," he said.
The idea, however, has received a lukewarm response from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce and Infrastructure New Zealand.
Hamish Glenn, policy director at Infrastructure New Zealand, said he understood there is work under way on harbour crossing options.
He said Infrastructure New Zealand had not seen analysis to give it confidence that the long-term travel needs of Auckland can be met solely with public transport and walking and cycling across the harbour.
"We have seen plenty of analysis which shows the entire corridor is under significant strain...we need a resilient general traffic crossing," Glenn said.
With SH1 choked at the north and south entry points to the harbour bridge, he said consideration should be given to whether the harbour can be crossed another way.
Several years ago, Infrastructure New Zealand raised the idea of a bridge north of the harbour bridge to SH16 at the port to allow north-south traffic to avoid Spaghetti Junction and the CBD.
Auckland Chamber of Commerce chief executive Michael Barnett said the harbour bridge is a motorway bridge that should be part of a wider New Zealand discussion that should take in freight and tunnels.
"Walking and cycle won't provide much relief to the 55 per cent of commuters travelling south across the bridge in the morning who have destinations outside the CBD, or for the ever-increasing volume of freight.
"Heavy traffic has grown 30 per cent in the last five years, and further restrictions on freight use of the bridge are expected by 2030," Barnett said.
This week, the Herald revealed that the walking and cycling path over the bridge, popularly known as SkyPath, has run into "significant and complex engineering issues" and the current design will be scrapped.
Transport Minister Michael Wood would not say if he was aware of plans for a new bridge, but said the Government is still committed to walking and cycling across the Waitematā.
"Building a walking and cycling connection across the harbour is a complex engineering challenge, and the recent damage to the Auckland Harbour Bridge reinforces the need to ensure we maintain it to the best of our ability.
"Waka Kotahi (NZ Transport Agency) is working with the alliance appointed to deliver the project to make sure the design is fit for purpose and I'm looking forward to being updated when that work is complete," Wood said.
When asked if Waka Kotahi is evaluating a parallel bridge to the Auckland Harbour Bridge, a spokesman said: "I cannot confirm that".
The first hint of a new harbour bridge for public transport, walking and cycling came in a column in the Herald by a former senior editor, John Roughan, in November last year.
He said 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. The design also includes a footpath and bike way.
Under this proposal, buses would no longer travel across the Auckland Harbour Bridge and all eight lanes would be available for cars, commercial vehicles and trucks.