The NZ Transport Agency has released plans for its preferred option for a shared path over the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
The new design for the long awaited SkyPath will provide a five-metre-wide path flanking the Harbour Bridge's southbound traffic side, directly linking Westhaven to Northcote Point and connecting with the future SeaPath route.
The decision comes after the concept for the path was created more than a decade ago - causing turmoil between NZTA and with the original concept developer, the SkyPath Trust.
It wasn't until February this year that NZTA announced that construction on the shared path could start as early as next year, but it was still reviewing design options for the mega project.
However, SkyPath Trust said the design review was a 'ploy to delay' its construction even further.
The Trust has since planned a protest march across the bridge, on May 26, as it believes it is being sabotaged by the NZTA after it has been pushing for the project for more than a decade.
But in a release today, NZTA said an independent investigation by legal firm Simpson Grierson had found no wrongdoing the Agency in its dealings with the Trust.
However the report did say there could have been better communication between the two organisations
The Shared Path will provide a five-metre-wide path flanking the Harbour Bridge's southbound traffic side. Photo / NZTA
NZTA interim chief executive, Mark Ratcliffe said the Agency was committed to improving its relationship with the SkyPath Trust.
Brett Gliddon, GM of system design and delivery, also acknowledged the "tireless work and dedication of those who have campaigned for a walking and cycling connection across the bridge, in particular the SkyPath Trust".
"While recognising their vision and legacy the Transport Agency is also mindful of its role to ensure that we deliver the best outcomes and value for money for all New Zealanders," he said.
Gliddon said he was delighted to be able to give more detailed information and certainty about the walking and cycling path.
The selected design allows for separation between people on foot and on bikes, making it safer and more enjoyable for all users.
"We're confident this will deliver the safest, most enduring solution not only for people now but also for future generations, and that it will become much more than just a transport connection," he said.
"We are committed to transforming walking and cycling in Auckland and this design offers the most far reaching and enduring benefits."
This design would see the path attached to the bridge piers rather than the clip on, so there will be no load restrictions - meaning there will not be restrictions on the number of people able to access the path at one time, and it is designed to cater for future demands.
It will allow for different active modes to share the space, as well as the ability for people to access and exit the path from the existing bridge in an emergency.
The path will also include wide viewing galleries where people can gather to enjoy views without impeding the travel of pedestrians and cyclists.
"The route includes areas to pause and sit and it will have three generous viewing galleries. These galleries are terraced down from the pathway to create a natural seating area, distinct from the cycleway.
"About a hundred metres long and more than two metres wide, they provide plenty of places for people to rest and enjoy the beautiful views from the iconic bridge," Gliddon said.
NZTA is also continuing to work on SeaPath, a 4km shared path between Northcote Point and Esmonde Road, Takapuna to ensure the design coordinates with plans for the Harbour Bridge Shared Path.
The original proposal was for the construction of a 1km long 4m-wide path attached to the bottom of the bridge between Northcote Point and Westhaven.
It was to be connected with SeaPath, a 3km cycle and walkway from Northcote Pt and along the motorway to Esmonde Rd in Takapuna - at a combined cost of $99 million.
Both projects were initially forecast to be completed by 2021.
While the plans have been mooted for more than a decade, the Government announced last August it would fully fund the $67 million project.
The project suffered a series of setbacks since it received resource consent in November 2016, including Downer Construction pulling out from building it and the SkyPath Trust withdrawing support from the public-private partnership (PPP) formed to build and toll it.
Then in February, NZTA announced it was reviewing SkyPath's design options and that a business case was well underway with construction possibly beginning early next year.