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North Shore City supports harbour tunnel idea

North Shore City supports harbour tunnel idea

In responding to Transit NZ's report on possible future new Waitemata Harbour crossings for the Auckland region, North Shore City Council still favours its long-held position that any future new crossing should be a tunnel.

At its meeting tonight, the council released its position on Transit NZ's Waitemata Harbour Crossing Construction Feasibility Study which investigated the technical feasibility of new crossing options close to the existing harbour bridge as part of an action and policy under the Auckland Regional Land Transport Strategy. The study outlines a range of tunnel and bridge options for another harbour crossing for the Auckland region.

Chairperson of the council's strategy and finance committee, Tony Holman, says North Shore City favours a tunnel in the vicinity of the existing harbour bridge on the eastern side.

"We think a tunnel is the best way to go because it will lessen the environmental and visual impacts of having another crossing on our harbour. But we want to see that tunnel including provision and priority for public transport. That could mean that in the future, our new planned Busway runs through that tunnel," he says.

Councillor Holman says the council has asked Transit to carry out the next phase of investigation into the new crossing options urgently.

"We want some more work done around where is the best place for the tunnel to connect with our city and where it should be exiting and dispersing traffic in Auckland City. We need some thorough investigations around those issues."

He says residents will have plenty of chance to have their say and the work is still very much in 'investigation mode' for long term planning.

"We are conscious of the cost and effects of another crossing but that we have to start planning now to allow for this to happen in the future. The focus of this study was the technical feasibility issues, and work now has to be carried out around the social, economic and environmental impacts of any new crossing.

"Wide public consultation is planned in these phases over the next two to three years. We need to think ahead. In the past Auckland hasn't planned far enough in advance to ensure it has the right transport infrastructure in place, so it's good to see this work progressing now," he says.

However, Tony Holman says that North Shore City Council is fully committed to using its new Busway system to maximise the capacity on the existing harbour bridge by getting more people into buses and increasing the number of people travelling in each car in peak time traffic too.

"Our focus is on moving more people but in fewer vehicles," he says. "Our transit lanes for cars with three or more people and our bus lanes are aimed at that. The Busway is where we need to concentrate our immediate focus. Another harbour crossing is only being planned on an 'if and when needed' basis.

Councillor Holman says the council also wants to see a crossing built for pedestrians and cyclists on the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge.

"It isn't safe or feasible to put pedestrian and cycling facilities in long tunnels. So we want Transit to let pedestrians and cyclists on the existing bridge as soon as possible. It's crazy that we have a crossing over our harbour that doesn't allow people to walk or cycle on it. This is by far the most environmentally-friendly and healthy way to get about and we should be encouraging people to make those choices," he says.

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