There was an interesting article in the Sunday Star Times yesterday, calling for the next crossing of the Waitemata Harbour to be a bridge rather than a tunnel. As I outlined a few months ago, the current plan for the next crossing of the Waitemata – whenever it should be required – is a pile of tunnels, potentially two for rail and two for road. The total cost of this project is pretty immense, $3.7-$4.1 billion for the whole thing. Personally, I don’t think it is something that will be required for quite a number of years yet – largely because from a public transport perspective the Northern Busway has plenty of capacity remaining before it becomes overloaded; while from a roading perspective there are more significant capacity constraints to the north and south of the bridge – rather than the bridge itself.

Nevertheless, I suppose that at some point in the future we will need to build another crossing of the harbour. The current ‘clip-ons’ on the side of the Harbour Bridge have a limited lifespan and will probably reach that limit some time within the next 30-40 years. While they could be replaced one at a time, cutting the Harbour Bridge back to 6 lanes without building an alternative route would lead to a lot of chaos and probably couldn’t really happen for an extended period of time. More detail on NZTA’s current preferred option is available here, while the bridge option is detailed a bit more below:

2975346Costings and technical details for a new Auckland harbour bridge will be released on 3 December as part of a wide-ranging feasibility analysis, the ANZAC Centenary Bridge Group announced today.

The Group consists of a number of well known local companies, including NZ Steel, Mainzeal, Aspec Properties, Davis Langdon, and Jasmax.

It has been endorsed by organisations such as the Returned Services’ Association, the Heavy Engineering Research Association and Heart of the City, and has received guidance on financial and technical matters from leading international consulting firms.

Representatives of the Group have had encouraging informal discussions on the ANZAC Centenary Bridge with Prime Minister John Key, Transport Minister Steven Joyce, Auckland MPs, and other Government officials.

The Group is committed to promoting a solution to the Waitemata Harbour crossing debate that addresses Auckland’s transport needs, celebrates the city’s natural and cultural heritage, and elevates its standing on the world stage.

A new bridge can deliver such a solution, the Group maintains, and can do so more cost-effectively than a tunnel or any other alternative. The Group is calling for the new bridge to be constructed by 2015, to commemorate the ANZAC Day centenary.

Group spokesman Richard Simpson said it was confident that the Government would give equal consideration to a bridge as to a tunnel when it came time to decide on options for a new harbour crossing this December.

“The new ANZAC Centenary Bridge would be cheaper to build and operate than the new tunnel/existing bridge option”, he explained. “It would carry more cars and trucks, while providing for rail, cyclists and pedestrians. We see it as the best option in economic, environmental, and social terms.”

Mr Simpson said that the Group was currently focused on getting the numbers right, rather than “making noise”.

“We look forward to sharing the full details of the feasibility report in early December”, he said. “Until then, the key thing is following the correct process to ensure that the bridge option gets on the table.”

Nevertheless, Mr Simpson said more information would soon be available on the proposed new bridge, with the ANZAC Centenary Bridge Group website scheduled to go live at by the end of October.

Mr Simpson described the interest and support that the Group had received thus far as “very positive”, and as having come from both large and small companies and organisations, from a range of areas of the economy.

Some of the estimated benefits of this option are outlined by this “ANZAC Centenary Bridge Group” include:

1) Construction cost $2-3 billion compared to $3.7–$4.1b for the proposed tunnel
2) Operating cost of 1/5 to 13 of a tunnel (based on ventilation, lighting, drainage and maintenance)
3) About 350,000m2 of land valued at around $1b in St Mary’s Bay and Northcote Pt could be sold off after closure of bridge.
4) Travel time and distance savings worth about $60 million a year (based on a bridge being 1.2km shorter than a tunnel)
5)Estimated tourism benefits: $325 million a year (based on tourists staying an extra night)

I think a likely route for the roading part (red) and the rail part (blue) of the project would be as I have shown in the map below:

So, now that we’ve looked at the potential benefits of this option, let’s examine it’s negative effects. Firstly, let’s be clear that as part of building a new bridge instead of going with the tunnel option we would have to remove the current harbour bridge. This would be pretty expensive in itself and would also remove a pretty massive Auckland icon – whether or not we consider it to be a particularly great design there can be no doubting that the Harbour Bridge symbolises Auckland in many ways and it would be a pretty big step to completely remove it. Secondly, there would be some potentially pretty nasty urban design effects on the Tank Farm area at the southern end of the bridge – arising mainly because it would have to be pretty high up to avoid conflicts with shipping, plus I imagine having a viaduct over Tank Farm would be considered preferable to having a surface level motorway running through this part of the city.

Another big issue to resolve would be how to actually make the rail link work. The tracks at Britomart are about 8m or similar below ground level, and they would need to rise up steadily to join the bridge at its southern abutment. That would mean a slowly rising railway line cutting through a very large part of Auckland’s CBD – once again being incredibly expensive and also having potentially significant visual effects on that part of the city (even if it was run down the middle of Fanshawe Street for example).

So all-in-all, I just can’t see this as being a viable option. By cutting an elevated motorway and railway line through the heart of the CBD it would take us back decades in terms of urban design, whereas a tunnel is a modern solution that removes or reduces the effects of the transport project on the surrounding urban fabric. So while it’s an interesting idea in principle – and it potentially quite cheap compared to the tunnel options – I really don’t think it would end up having a good effect on Auckland at all.

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  1. I think the bridge is a great design and would be very effective in doing it’s job, however there looks to be from this article missing major costs involved, combined with the fact that we cannot remove the Harbour Bridge because of it’s historic value on the city. Also I don’t think the proposed route would be the best option, running the bridge closer to the current Harbour bridge would be more ideal in creating a proper rail link and utilising current projects (vic park tunnels). (Based on the fact that the current bridge would have to be dismanteled if the new bridge went ahead). I think we would have to wait untill the end of october so we can find out all the facts, at this stage the tunnel option looking more preferable.

  2. I completely disagree. Firstly the rail link would be achievable at a midtown station, something you have written about your self Jabury. So it would connect from Midtown or Wellesley St. to Wynard Station, a point where many people accessing the viaduct/ tank farm could get off then cross the harbour. It would not have to run through the middle of tank farm but rather on the western side. It provides massive savings up to $2 billion dollars, and loc operational cost. The savings of not having to travel 2km of so through St Marys bay should not be over looked. Whilst it does have negative impacts I think most could be mitigated through design.

  3. 2015 is FAR FAR too short a timeframe, and the advocates are deluding themselves if they really think there will be a new bridge by 2015.

    “Firstly, let’s be clear that as part of building a new bridge instead of going with the tunnel option we would have to remove the current harbour bridge. This would be pretty expensive in itself and would also remove a pretty massive Auckland icon – whether or not we consider it to be a particularly great design there can be no doubting that the Harbour Bridge symbolises Auckland in many ways and it would be a pretty big step to completely remove it.”
    There is no need to remove the current bridge. While it may be somewhat unused once the new bridge is built, it can stay in place, with access from Queen St Northcote and Curran St/Shelly Bay Road in Pansonby, and turn it into a local road of 3 lanes linking Ponsonby and Nothcote. The forth lane can be a walkway/cycleway.

    The bridge-Fanshaw St section of motorway can be removed, hopefully along with Westhaven Drive and the marina creating a nice large waterfront park here.

    The bridge can be built as road only, and build the railway latter in a tunnell, or build the railway without a link to Britomart but somewhere else on the CBD rail link instead (like the Midtwon station).

    “By cutting an elevated motorway and railway line through the heart of the CBD it would take us back decades in terms of urban design” Looking at google maps satelaite view the “tank farm” area isn’t the nicest part of the city. One could almost say a motorway would improve this area.

    The $1-2bn cost savings are huge. Imagine if we could have an extra 1-2bn for rail in Auckland.

    If feasible I consider this a better option than the current tunnel one.

  4. The original Jasmax concept had the bridge touching down closer to Onewa Rd (although this would have it running very close to Northcote Point, so I’m not sure why it wouldn’t just make landfall. WRT to the rail, it could used the CBD tunnel rather than taking a more direct route. As a presumably non-freight route, it should also be able to climb more steeply than conventional lines.J

  5. I got to say I like it…

    Although with a couple of caveats; the railway and roads must go into a tunnel as soon as they reach landfall, the Sea and City Project is too important for Auckland to stuff it up with new obtrusive infrastructure, this could be acheieved by having the ship access closer to the Northern edge of the bridge, remember the bridge was designed with allowing container ships to Te Atatu in mind so the new one doesn’t need to be as high… Secondly they have to figure out a use for or stop the VPT, I’m sure this is part of their plan as an initial source of funding…

    If those issues can be sorted out I’m a real fan of the idea, it saves a huge amount of money, it allows us to finally admit and fix the huge mistakes we made with the initial bridge, it will solve the issues of the horrible strech of motorway at St Mary’s bay (from a design point of view) and will give us development and public space options there, plus add population close to the CBD and railway over the Shore…

    P.S. That looks like light rail on the bridge in the image which obviously can climb much steeper grades than heavy rail, remember there are some light rail platforms in Britomart…

  6. I’m not sure that this bridge would need to be that high- there are no deep water ports in the western Waitemata maybe a few yachts would need to take their masts out, but this would be a small sacrifice. I’m also not sure if enough development is planned for the North Shore to justify the cost. If the MUL is adhered to- where do you see the population and employment growth that will lead to increases in traffic? At present this area does not have enough density to justify rail. Also bear in mind that SH18 will take a lot of the traffic once the Hobsonville motorway is finished.

  7. Goodbye rail tunnel. They’ll build the bridge, spend $4 billion (probably more – roads seem to be made out of gold these days) and decide that they’ve run out of money. They will then promise to complete the loop later. Before 2050.

    Madness? Yes, but this is Auckland.

  8. Jeremy, there aren’t any light rail platforms at Britomart. What there is is the unexcavated space inside the outer diaphram wall where a pair of light rail bypass tracks were proposed to have gone. The platforms themselves would have been at street level, there is no room in the station for the tracks and the platforms. In the context of light rail on the bridge there would be no point in using those spaces, as any LRV could run directly to the street level platforms without needing to bypass Britomart.

  9. Thanks for your comments everyone. When one considers that NZTA are currently spending $430 million on building the Victoria Park Tunnel I just can’t see them going for a harbour crossing option that does not utilise it. Furthermore, there is no provision for a bridge in the plans for Tank Farm so its route is going to be highly marginalised very soon.

    Jeremy, if the route was to be underground through Tank Farm yet also at a suitable grade for rail then it is going to be incredibly low, which I doubt would work for shipping – even Westhaven marina if it came frm Tank Farm. So practically it is to be a high bridge which means it will ruin Tank Farm and it will be damn hard to get the rail to the bridge, even from a Midtown station.

  10. So why not a high bridge that doesn’t pass over Tank Farm, but rather goes just west a little?

    It’s not like The Rocks in Sydney is ruined by the Sydney Harbour Bridge, even though it passes alongside that part of the city at quite a height.

  11. Yeah Tank Farm would be better off if the bridge was really high up. However that makes the task of getting the train line up to the bridge even more difficult.

  12. George is right i could see this coming at the expense of something like the CBD loop if it gets fast tracked through. I could also see them compromising and doing the old “space left for light rail” routine.

  13. @ Nick R

    It’s hard to understand nowadays the extraordinarily horrendous impact that the construction of the Sydney Harbour Bridge had on the Rocks (and for that matter on North Sydney); it was Sydney’s own spaghetti junction moment some 40 years avant la lettre. If you want to look at a pictorial depiction of the physical destruction of an integrated [working class] community I’d suggest you look at a series of aerial photographs of the bridge construction taken around 1931 by the photographer John Park held in the Macleay Museum at the University of Sydney. I included them in a book I wrote on the architecture of Sydney (F Fromonot and C Thompson, Sydney: history of a landscape (Paris: Vilo, 2000), pp. 64-65). I guess you could say that the inhabitants of the Rocks were the first communal victims of privatised motoring in the southern hemisphere. Sadly, they weren’t the last.

  14. Ah, thanks for Nick, I remember now, got a little ahead of myself there…

    If they are doing it as light rail Jarbury, then grade isn’t really an issue… The bridge could have a 30m height and be fine…

    The light rail line could presumably run above grade over the Te Wero Bridge to Britomart while they build a cut and cover tunnel from the future point park to Victoria St…

    It is crucial they stop VPT which we know is a pretty poorly designed road anyway from Riggles and use this as money to start off the project…

    It would serve as a catalyst for the Sea and City project as they’d have to remove the remaining tanks, we’d get a rail line over the shore (albeit light rail) I’ll settle for any rail over there by 2015, we’d get a better waterfront at St Mary’s Bay, ped and cycle access… As I say if they do it right I like the idea…

  15. VPT starts construction in the next few weeks so I can’t see it being cancelled. In terms of rail to the North Shore, in my opinion there is no point in doing light rail. The busway can do that job better than any light rail.

    When the busway gets close to capacity then we think about doing a rail tunnel. And honestly, if we built a rail tunnel before a road tunnel then we would have the ability to replace the clip-ons one by one to a lighter and stronger material and have the railway line provide the extra capacity while that happens. So in the end we have a rail tunnel and the current bridge, but with newer and stronger clipons.

  16. You wont be surprised that I think the motorway from Victoria Park to Constellation Drive should be privatised on a 99 year lease and with that tolls allowed to be introduced and a concession to build a second crossing. That would probably delay the construction of a second crossing by a good decade, as tolls can manage demand and provide buses with a free flow from the end of the Busway to the city (and make buses more competitive). The concessionaire then has to manage the issue of the life of the clipons (possibly abandoning the outside lane each side for cycling NOT walking) once a second crossing has been made. The discipline on the toll rate would be the Western Ring Route.

    Meanwhile, selling the bridge/Northern Motorway would raise a large amount of money.

  17. Why not walking? Surely one of the best things about opening the Harbour Bridge up for walking and cycling would be for people taking a recreational walk across the bridge. Would become a big tourist attraction too. I walked across the bridge back in May this year at the infamous bridge walk and it was an outstandingly beautiful walk.

    Our transport routes should not be solely for shifting people and stuff. They are parts of the city too, and we should seek to improve our city as a whole not just make it easier to get around. That will have huge flow-on benefits that I fear, Liberty, you seem unable to comprehend.

  18. Someone made the good point that if the Chelsea refinery is the only reason for a high bridge, it could simply be cheaper to move the refinery. If it isn’t, then there are obviously other considerations.

  19. You don’t need to sell the bridge or privatise the nothern motorway: a congestion charge will do nicely instead, plus a holiday charge valid between Herne Bay/Parnell and Omaha Beach.

  20. Admin: I’m not opposed to walking, but the bridge simply cannot take large number of people walking without the resonance causing significant damage. It could be retrofitted to manage that as part of the concession of course. I am far from opposed to allowing walking, but only when the road capacity can be shifted elsewhere and the high cost of managing the resonance can be addressed. The bridge originally should have had a pedestrian and cycling route, but this was eliminated partly on cost grounds but also because the council owned ferry and bus operations feared loss of revenue.

    Ian: It can be, but that means the risk of financing, construction and revenue lies with the state. There is a huge amount of capital tied up in the harbour bridge and its approaches, which could be better deployed elsewhere, such as significantly reducing the debt interest burden on taxpayers. It could be part sold and the rest distributed as shares to Auckland residents, which would mean Aucklanders would have a real vested interest in it. Government has never been that good at managing risk of cost blowouts for major projects.

    A congestion charge on only the bridge would be inequitable, but a toll to help finance another crossing and manage demand (it would be very cheap offpeak) is another thing. It could be used to payback the cost of the Northern Busway and the Victoria Park Tunnel to the NLTF as well, reducing the burden on the NLTF generally.

    However, regardless of ownership, my core point is to use pricing to deliver this. Had the toll never been removed in the first place, it could have enabled work like the Busway, Victoria Park, CMJ upgrade and numerous other projects to be able to be financed, AND demand managed at peak times. The concerns about sprawl north would have been far easier to contain.

  21. everyone looks at the harbour and is excited about possibilities.

    whatever happened to the DO NOTHING Option?

    How about we toll auckland harbour bridge and see what happens before we do anything.

    too many questions need answering before even contemplating another crossing…
    ..especially by road.

    my ten cents

  22. Jonathon, actually I agree. Apart from providing a walking & cycling link (which I think NZTA and GetAcross are coming to an agreement on and might actually happen) the current Harbour Bridge is probably fine for another 20-30 years at least. The busway will take a long time to reach capacity, and its problems are mainly with Fanshawe Street and Britomart rather than with the Harbour Bridge. I’m sure that we could make at least one of the lanes on the harbour bridge a T2 or T3 lane to squeeze out more capacity if we had to – and so on, and so forth.

    Planning for another harbour crossing is a bit of an obsession in Auckland.

    1. I learned today that tolls are still running on sydney
      harbour bridge…in recent times they were used to help
      finance another tunnel…still not taken off yet.
      therefore…going by that logic..any new tolls on auckland
      harbour bridge are perfectly ok…maybe don’t even
      have to be justified?

      another thing…If auckland wants to expand(I can’t stand that
      and I’ll say why later) wouldn’t it make sense to expand either
      south east or west..rather than north where a big harbour is
      “in the way” from a financial and geographical point of view?

      About expansion…Piles of opportunities for auckalnd to simply
      put another million in it’s current boundaries with a bit of
      decent thinking and in the city is gaining
      some momentum the last ten or so years and that’s a huge positive…keep encourgaing this I say.

  23. I see absolutely no inherent cultural value in the old bridge. Good riddance. The only ‘icon’ status it has is because it’s there, not because of what it is. Immediately replaced by the Sky Tower as a symbol of Auckland. It was always a dog, that violated both St Mary’s Bay and Northcote Point. An inelegant low value structure that is still the squeeze point for PT integration with the Shore. And the new bridge would easily take over any of this cultural heavy lifting. Also apparently Simpson has worked out connections with the VPT…. But still the big worry is Joyce wiping the rail. His first comment was reportedly ‘not enough car lanes’. The keys to increasing use of the dedicated transit lane now there is 1. making it dedicated all the way [ie not having to mess with traffic again on a bridge or tunnel] and 2. Having it seemlessly integrated with the rest of the system, not terminating in town: Manukau to Albany to Hendo… I look forward to the website going live. Get Calatrava or Foster on the line…

  24. My last post should have started “can’t” not “can”…

    That’s interesting information Vincent, Joyce may be right on not enough car lanes depending on the number, if it’s replacing 8 with 8 he’s probably correct… As much as he’d like to cancel the rail I don’t think the public would stand for it… I mean making the same mistake twice..?

  25. The problem with making the bridge a million lanes wide is that you end up making a pile of bottlenecks elsewhere in the system. Unless you widen them too and we then embark on yet another endless process of widening motorways. If this was done I say stick to 8 general lanes, have 2 railway tracks, 2 bus lanes and walking and cycling lanes.

  26. Yes that’s very true, part of the tunnel plan is to free up space for bus and active modes on lanes on the existing bridge, that must be continued…

  27. Liberty, ultimately the risk lies with the state anyway because if a company building/running/ an important road should fail, the state would have to pick up the pieces. However we know the state can manage to charge tolls on roads very successfully as evidenced in the past so why even consider privatisation? Your argument is a straw man.

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