Two Tauranga City Councillors are already thinking of alternatives for pedestrians and cyclists to get from A to B, following the New Zealand Transport Agency’s decision to not include an underpass as part of the Baypark to Bayfair Link project.
NZTA Senior Project Delivery Manager Andrew Thackwray says with the evidence gathered from the design process, the underpass construction would not only be highly complex, but extra contractual costs would arise, exceeding the available project funding.
Andrew says in addition to the costs associated with the physical works, there would also be significant costs due to the additional time needed to build the underpass, as well as the traffic switches which would be needed to enable construction.
"We understand that this decision will be disappointing for many in the community, but a new underpass is no longer an affordable option in what is currently a highly constrained funding environment.”
Andrew explains the underpass total cost has been totaled to $33 million, and the complexity of the work required would add another two years or more to the construction timeline.
Councillor Larry Baldock says the underpass is hard to justify at its cost.
“It’s what they are going to provide as an alternative will be interesting, they probably should be looking at two underpasses in my opinion to improve access for pedestrians and for cyclists.
“When you are talking that kind of money, we’d get better outcomes with over bridges or relocating an underpass somewhere else as another option.
“You could go on the south side of Girven Road and provide an overpass there and then down at Concord to give two options for people to get across, particularly cyclists and mobility scooters.”
Fellow councillor Rick Curach agrees with Larry, and says the NZTA made a decision which had no alternative.
“Logically, it just didn’t stack up. When you’re talking $33 million, and the fact that the NZTA are short of funds, it was obviously not prioritized, and also there was a delay to the project of two years, so I suppose the cost factor and the delay of the project came up as an obvious result.
“Everyone saw the benefits, but the cost versus benefit ratio doesn’t add up.”
As for an alternative, Rick describes architect Mark Wassung’s overpass idea as ‘awesome’.
“The overpass can be done after, so it can be retrofitted after the project is finished, and it is obviously something we need to consider as a solution because it doesn’t mean going underground, and that was the NZTA’s issue as there is a whole lot of services, there is also the weight bearing requirements and not compromising the ground conditions and things like that.
“An overpass wouldn’t have those issues. It is a solution in the future when the project is finished.
“I use the current underpass, but with the project, the NZTA is going to have a signalised crossing, so you press a button and the pedestrians or cyclists can go across.
“There is going to be a safe solution, but it means the inconvenience of waiting a minute or so.”
Mark Wassung’s Baypark to Bayfair link over pass idea came from his own personal interest.
“I came up with the idea myself, and it’s self-driven, there is no clients or anyone behind it, it’s my idea and it’s all done in the resources of my practice,” says Mark.
“I don’t live in that area, but I am aware of its high usage historically, and of course it’s gone now, but it was an interesting amenity that was taken away, and there was no real plan to reinstate it or to have the same or similar.
“Because the new design was wider, the underpass would’ve ended up being I think close to 100 metres.”
Mark says his idea of an over bridge is accessible, therefore it is friendly to those with mobility scooters and wheelchairs with an ‘organic curve’.
Mark describes the bridge as an ‘urban playground’.
“It would be visible, accessible, and allow for scooters and pedestrians and cyclists. It basically takes the existing amenity and gives people a safe and accessible path over the top.”
After proposing his idea to the Tauranga City Council and the NZTA, he says the community were very much behind the over bridge.
Mark says he designed a similar bridge in Hamilton and he was able to use the rates and numbers from a quantity surveyor to determine a cost for his proposed Bayfair link over bridge, and it totalled to be around seven million dollars.
“Seven million to do something that’s sculptural and organic and like an urban playground was what I thought, a reasonable number, compared to trying to get people across five intersection lights.
“The whole point of the B2B is to get people moving, but if you are going to be pushing buttons and interrupting traffic, then it is going to be interrupting the flow.”
To Mark’s frustration, his self-driven proposal, which has had a lot of community support, hasn’t been acted on by the NZTA and the Tauranga City Council as of yet.
“I circulated the drawings and no decisions were made, they had all the information but nobody did anything with it.
“It seems to be a lot of talk and no action.”