Minister of Transport Hon Simon Bridges turned the first sod and planted a kowhai tree at Queenstown’s Kawarau Falls new bridge site this morning, celebrating the start of the $22 million project. It is expected to be completed in the third quarter of 2017.
The NZ Transport Agency is delivering this project on behalf of the government as part of its Accelerated Regional Roading Package announced last year.
The new bridge is being built by McConnell Dowell Constructors.
“This is one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the Queenstown area with wider benefit regionally,” said Transport Agency Southern Regional Director Jim Harland. “There has been strong growth in Frankton Flats, around Queenstown International Airport, in recent years. This is forecast to continue for the next 15 years or more and this new bridge will help smooth that growth and the growing traffic volumes.”
The Kawarau Falls Bridge is one of two South Island projects funded under the Government’s accelerated package, with the other the SH73 Mingha Bluff Realignment on State Highway 73 between Christchurch and Greymouth.
“This bridge will benefit the wider Wakatipu Basin as well as making the State Highway 6 network connecting the West Coast, Otago and Southland far more resilient,” said Mr Harland. “It is being built to withstand a one in 2,500 year earthquake.”
The historic 90-year-old, one-lane bridge would become part of the Queenstown Trail cycling and walking network, increasing safety for visitors and locals enjoying the Lake Wakatipu environment, he said.
A lack of traffic capacity on the existing single lane bridge, much of it stemming from traffic growth relating to commercial development on the Frankton Flats, leads to delays at the bridge especially during the peak winter ski and summer holiday periods. These hold-ups cause frustration for visitors, locals and freight operators.