After a tumultuous period underlined by recent protests from cyclists, the government has confirmed plans to build a second harbour bridge across Auckland’s Waitemata Harbour.
The bridge will be exclusively for pedestrians and cyclists, and will come at a cost of approximately $685million. This is at odds with earlier reports, which speculated that a new bridge would also be home to train lines.
It will be part of the North Island’s Northern Pathway, with connections to Northcote and Takapuna. Development of the pathway will add another $100million to the total.
The news follows ongoing confusion around the government’s Skypath project, as well as talk that the existing harbour bridge would not be structurally stable enough to accommodate the addition.
“We need this transport connection to move ahead but it isn’t technically possible to attach it to the existing bridge without putting the whole structure at risk,” Transport Minister Michael Wood said earlier in the year, when speaking about the then-new $12billion New Zealand Upgrade Programme infrastructure announcement.
“A standalone structure is the safest option. […] Major international cities all around the world have similar connections and we’ve all seen how well used the Te Ara I Whiti/Lightpath has become, with the Northern Pathway having the potential to be a bigger tourist drawcard.
“Northern Pathway is the missing link in Auckland’s walking and cycling network. Aucklanders finally will be able to get across the harbour by foot or bike. It’s important we get it right and make sure it’s an enduring piece of infrastructure, providing alternative modes of transport across the harbour and helping reduce congestion on our Auckland roads.”
Protests from cyclists last week demanded an update from the government on the in-limbo Skypath build. Those supporting the cycling community clearly made an impact on the government, with news following that it was investigating whether converting two of the harbour bridge’s lanes into cycleway would be viable.
The new bridge is said to take around five years to consent and build. More government infrastructure announcements are expected to be announced later today.