The Aucklander reported today that the Minister of Transport has asked consultants to conduct a study into whether the next Harbour crossing for Auckland should be a bridge or a tunnel.*
Parallel tunnels for road and rail going under the Harbour are the preferred option that was selected by various stakeholders (including the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) and the Auckland Regional Transport Authority) last year. The agencies chose this option after an exhaustive study which considered 159 options, including some truly original ones like a tunneled connection all the way out to Glen Innes and a bridge from Pt Chevalier.
Obviously, the tunnels wouldn’t be suitable for pedestrians/cyclists. However, the agencies felt that once the tunnels had been built this would take enough traffic off the current bridge that some lanes could be converted into a walk/cycle way.
More recently, however, a study by an independent group called Anzac Centenary Bridge 2015 has suggested that a better solution might be to build a second bridge across the Harbour. Their vision is for a 10 lane bridge which would also carry light rail and have walking and cycling facilities. They propose to pay the construction costs through dismantling the current bridge and redeveloping the land which would be freed up by removing the motorway on-ramps.
Personally, I don’t really mind whether we build a bridge or a tunnel. My main concerns are that whichever crossing we choose it should:
- not be built until it is truly needed – the NZTA seems to be giving quite confusing and mixed messages about how much life there is left in the current bridge structure. Auckland has a lot of major and urgent transport projects to build (like the CBD rail loop) so we don’t want to invest billions in an unnecessary second crossing before we have to
- include an extension of the Auckland rail system to the North Shore (this might stop at Onewa at first and then slowly be extended further north as needed)
- have room for cyclists and pedestrians
- not have a major negative impact on the views and atmosphere of the Wynyward Point area in central Auckland (where the bridge would start) or Onewa Rd area on the North Shore (where both would finish)
What do you think? Would you prefer a bridge or a tunnel?
* If you don’t live in Auckland and you’re wondering why we need a second crossing at all. The answer is that recently NZTA has begun signalling that the current bridge may only have another 20-40 years of life left before it becomes too unsafe for high volumes of traffic to use.