The NZ Transport Agency, in partnership with KiwiRail, has appointed professional advisers who will carry out an independent evaluation of options for an additional Waitematā Harbour Crossing.
Three separate evaluations will assess the business case for either a bridge or tunnels between the Wynyard Quarter west of Auckland's CBD and Esmonde Road on the North Shore, says the Transport Agency's State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker.
"They are the next important step in preparing for the additional harbour crossing," says Mr Parker. "When completed, they will provide more exact information so that the NZTA, KiwiRail and the Government can make decisions about the options and timing of the crossing with more certainty."
The evaluations have been commissioned under three separate contracts:
Engineering and Planning: includes the type of crossing – bridge, tunnel or tunnels; connections with North Shore and Auckland; timing of construction. [awarded to Beca and AECOM]
Transportation Modelling: includes what types of transport can use the crossing; travel times; tolling [awarded to Sinclair Knight Merz and Flow Transportation Specialists]
Economic Justification: includes timing of project; funding; economic benefits for Auckland/New Zealand [awarded to PriceWaterhouseCoopers and the New Zealand Institute of Economic Research (NZIER)]
Mr Parker says an additional crossing is not included in the NZTA's current 10-year State Highways Programme for funding.
"However, it is important to plan for the future and use the opportunity we have now to evaluate and select the best option – whether it is tunnels or a bridge. We need another crossing that together with the Auckland Harbour Bridge will meet increasing volumes of traffic that are inevitable as Auckland continues to grow," he says.
Mr Parker says it is expected that the additional crossing will be the direct motorway link across the harbour, and the harbour bridge could serve local traffic, with dedicated lanes for public transport, cyclists and walkers.
"These are the issues we will be evaluating over the coming months," he adds. "The development of a robust business case is critical so that the best decision can be made to deliver a transport project that Aucklanders can be proud of, and help their city grow."
Mr Parker says that together, the additional crossing and the harbour bridge will improve transport security for Aucklanders. The risk of a shutdown because of an emergency like a crash is reduced with the two links, and people also have a greater transport choice to get across the harbour.
The NZTA recently moved to protect a route for the additional crossing with the lodgement of Notices of Requirement with Auckland and North Shore City Councils. The Notices refer specifically to tunnels, but a bridge is not precluded from that move to protect the route.
The evaluation studies are due for completion by the end of the year.
A team of international specialists will also be appointed over the coming month to peer-review and test the findings and recommendations of the evaluations.
Together, they will help the NZTA make the best choice, Mr Parker says. The options for the additional crossing will be included in the Government's National Infrastructure Plan.