Narrow bridges

Local pedestrian and bicycle bridges

While much of the attention is on the flashy big projects, one thing that is often overlooked is the potential for a small projects program improving connections between our suburbs.

I’ve been thinking about this especially since discussing changes to the Eastern Busway last year and Heidi’s post last week on East Tamaki reminded me to continue with that post.

To begin, let’s take a look at Burswood and the surrounding area. The people of Burswood essentially live on an island, cut off from the north, west and much of the east by the Pakuranga stream and cut off from the industrial area to the south by the pseudo-highway that is Ti Rakau Dr – something that won’t be made easier based on the most recent plans for the Eastern Busway.

Thinking of a few potential trips as examples:

  • A parent wishing to take their child to Riverhills School or visit friends northeast of Burswood would almost certainly drive them there the brave Ti Rakau Dr.
  • Someone working in the small industrial area just north of Burswood could potentially live less than 100 yards from their place of work, but be more than 3 miles by bike or more than 5 miles by car.

Either way, it helps add both unnecessary vehicle trips and emissions. Nor are such routes the type to be affected by major infrastructure projects like the Eastern Busway.

With around half of all our journeys in Auckland already being under 5km, there is a huge opportunity to convert many of them to car-free modes if we can make it easy and safe.

Imagine if we could connect Burswood to the surrounding area by means of a few bridges.

The local council have plans for the Burswood Walk and Cycle Bridge to the West and it has even been included in a list of their priority projects in their 2018 Walk and Cycle Network, of course subject to funding – the way from Elm Park School to Riverhills Park was estimated at the time to be $1.35 million but the bridge was not costed and said “requires a formal feasibility study

Additional funding for local projects like these would obviously help and I’m sure there are plenty of projects that will be both easier and more important to get done before we even get into the discussion of bridges. But the gaps in connections between suburbs due to waterways like this are significant everywhere in Auckland, but particularly in the east, west and north.

One of the delivery issues for projects like bridges in particular is that almost certainly every bridge is treated as a bespoke project. But it got me thinking, what could a program to deliver a large number of bridges in active mode across the region achieve using a shared but simple modular design and the same group of contractors. Could this reduce delivery costs per bridge by a noticeable amount and help make these bridges more viable?

This brings me to the questions for our readers:

  • If we had such a program, where are the places that you think might be good candidates for such an approach (and no, not the Harbor Crossing).
  • For the GIS helpers out there in the Auckland urban area, which location(s) have a short direct distance between them but have the longest distance between them via the road/lane network – these are not not just the waterways that create barriers, sometimes it’s just the poor layout of the road network that prevents easy connections between areas. Indeed, it would be interesting to draw up a list of the areas that most need new connections.
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