Hard News by Russell Brown


Getting Across

I'm delighted to learn that the visionary proposal for a grand span seems to be being taken seriously as an option for a new harbour crossing for Auckland. Its latest incarnation – as an ANZAC centenary project, due for delivery 2015 – offers a ready identity the project lacked for some time.

Richard Simpson's idea is now officially backed by the ANZAC Centenary Bridge Group, whose membership includes New Zealand Steel, Mainzeal, Aspec Properties, Davis Langdon, and Jasmax, and yesterday's press release listed endorsements from the Returned Services'Association, the Heavy Engineering Research Association and Heart of the City. The presence of Matthew Hooton on dark-arts duty won't hurt its chances either.

The ANZAC bridge is an alternative to a new harbour tunnel, spanning from Wynyard Point to the Onewa Road interchange. Unlike a tunnel, it's multi-use – road, rail, cycle and pedestrian. It frees up valuable harbourside land at both ends of the present bridge. It offers a striking design signature for the city. And, according to its supporters, it would be significantly cheaper both to build and maintain than a tunnel "or any other alternative". (Transit New Zealand's preferred option is presently a tunnel.)

I've been looking at this since Richard first aired the idea in 2005 and I'm actually keen to hear what's not good about it.

There was a story in yesterday's Sunday Star Times which suggested that the accelerated construction of the crossing might leave other transport projects in the cold – but it might also provide an opportunity for the government to reconsider one of its spur-of-the-moment decisions. Auckland needs this crossing a lot more than it needs a $2.3 billion stretch of motorway from Puhoi to Wellsford Josh has the numbers on that.

Anyway, there will be a website here at the end of the month, and the group is undertaking to publish costings and technical information on December 3. Its representatives say they've had "encouraging informal discussions …with Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Steven Joyce, Auckland MPs, and other Government officials."

I hope their optimism is well-founded.

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