The skyline at the northern entrance to Auckland's CBD will start to change in August when the NZ Transport Agency installs the framework or truss for a new footbridge over the State Highway 1 motorway in St Marys Bay as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project.
The 102 metre-long covered footbridge, which includes a design resembling a traditional Maori fishing net, will reconnect the St Marys Bay residential area with the Waitemata Harbour.
The NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says it is one of several improvements being made for walkers and cyclists as part of the $340 million motorway upgrade.
“When we open the footbridge early next year, it will restore the historic connection between land and sea in this part of Auckland,” Mr Parker says
The bridge will be fully covered with acrylic panels and the draped fish netting design is a reference to the area’s historical importance to Maori as a fishing ground.
Principal architect, John Coop, says the footbridge across the widened motorway will be a suitable entrance to the commercial centre of Auckland.
“It will be a simple, bold and sculptural form. It will be appropriate to its location - a gateway to Auckland - yet we have also aimed to be sensitive to the community living nearby and to the natural environment.”
At its landward end, the footbridge connects to the Jacobs Ladder staircase, originally built in the 1880s to provide access down the cliffs, and to the new walkway beside the motorway through St Marys Bay.
The seaward end is linked to Westhaven Drive by a staircase and a lift. At this end, there will be a viewing platform to the harbour.
The design of the bridge is a collaborative effort by architects SKM and Warren and Mahoney, landscape architects Boffa Miskell, a Maori design company, Kupenga Design, and the partners in the Victoria Park Tunnel alliance.
Mr Parker says constructing the footbridge will be a challenging operation and its installation will cause some disruption to motorway drivers. There will be partial highway closures on four separate nights:-
Mr Parker says the closures are necessary because the frame for the footbridge is being delivered on site in section, and a crane is needed to lift them into position.
“We have timed the closures to coincide with light volumes of traffic on the motorway to minimise any disruption and detours will be in place to help drivers, but we would advise all those using the motorway to allow a little more time for their journeys,” Mr Parker says.
After installation, work will start covering the frame and installing the deck. At the same time, the Jacobs Ladder staircase will also re-open to connect the walkway through St Marys Bay with Beaumont Street.
Others community-based work provided by the project includes the walkway separated from the motorway by a transparent noise wall below the St Marys Bay cliffs, new and upgraded footpaths for Victoria Park, a public plaza in front of the Rob Roy Hotel and new pedestrian crossings.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is one of the Government’s seven roads of national significance. The tunnel is due to open ahead of schedule in November, providing three dedicated lanes of northbound motorway traffic. The existing Victoria Park viaduct will be reconfigured to carry four lanes south.
The project completes a series of roading improvements through Auckland’s central motorway junction. Together with the new Newmarket Viaduct under construction at the south end of the central motorway junction, it will help deliver more reliable journey times and improve safety on one of the most heavily congested sections of the city’s motorway network.