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Bridge closed for quicker bus tests

21 September 2006

Grafton Bridge closed in preparation for quicker bus travel

Grafton Bridge will be closed to all traffic (excluding pedestrians and cyclists) for the weekend of 30 September and 1 October 2006. During this time, tests will determine the ability of the bridge to resist earthquakes and to carry more buses than currently acceptable.

The tests are an early stage of the construction of the central transit corridor (CTC), a dedicated busway connecting the CBD and Newmarket. The 4km route will link Auckland's two busiest retail and commercial hubs, and serve major passenger destinations along the way, including the new Vector Arena, the University of Auckland, Auckland City Hospital and Auckland Domain.

The CTC will give buses a quicker run in and out of the CBD - knocking an estimated 14 minutes off each peak hour total journey to and from Newmarket. Grafton Bridge will eventually be reserved for buses, bikes, pedestrians and emergency vehicles between 7am and 7pm, Monday to Friday. Outside these hours, the bridge will be open to all traffic.

The CTC is the most significant public transport initiative undertaken by Auckland City since Britomart says Transport and Urban Linkages Committee chairperson, Councillor Richard Simpson.

"We are committed to facilitating excellent public transport because we know this will help reduce pollution, and decrease road and parking congestion. Bus travel is a sustainable choice," says Councillor Simpson.

"The central transport corridor means that people travelling between two of the city's most important retail and business centres, as well as those wanting access to integral facilities such as the universities and hospital, will be able to do so more quickly and easily.

"The design and construction also allows for the future development of light rail."

Newmarket Business Association General Manager Cameron Brewer says that the corridor is an ambitious project that will dramatically improve the movement of people between the CBD and Newmarket.

"Newmarket has always been a key transport hub and junction and its strategic importance will further increase with enhanced access from the central transit corridor. While we might lose some on-street parking overall it's a big win for the travelling public with plenty of subsequent benefits for business," said Mr Brewer.

The planned upgrade on Grafton Bridge will not only make it compliant with the latest earthquake resistant standards but will also increase its load capacity to 40 tonnes, more than enough for the range of buses that will use the CTC.

The extent of the upgrade will be determined following the testing taking place at the end of September.

Unless advised otherwise, the closure will run from 10pm Friday, 29 September until 5.30am Monday, 2 October. Signage will make the detours clear.

Note to editors

When initially completed in 1910 Grafton Bridge was largest single span of reinforced concrete in the world. As Auckland's first major road bridge, it symbolised the creation of a 'greater Auckland', part of a regional road building programme linking the city centre with the then new hospital and Auckland Domain.

At 296m long, and rising to 43m above the valley floor, Grafton Bridge was an early 20th Century showcase of progressive engineering design. But built at a time when traffic levels were low, the new bridge was load tested using 292 tonnes of road metal, two steam rollers and a handful of confident 'volunteers'.

Today's load limits for the Grafton Bridge of 14 tonnes are still based on those early tests, which means heavier vehicles are banned from using the bridge and only the light Link buses can cross. The upgrade will ensure a full range of buses can use the bridge as an integral part of the central transport corridor.

ENDS

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