No third bridge in sight

According to a recent report, drivers face an average of a 1- 2 minute delay crossing the river during peak times. Photo – Michael Jeans.

An independent study commissioned by council has found that Cambridge will not need a third bridge across the Waikato River for at least another 20 years.

The Beca report, which cost almost $26,000, noted that traffic volumes crossing the river have grown 17 per cent in the last 10 years, with most growth occurring in the last three.

Using a regional traffic model and taking the town’s projected growth into account, the report found that there was “no short or medium term need for an additional bridge in Cambridge”. A third bridge would not be needed until around 2048 or so and would likely come with a “rough order” price tag of $60-$65 million, the report said.

Roading is not a targeted rate, so this cost would have to be spread across the entire region and could potentially result in a districtwide rates increase of around 11 percent, based on a cost of $65M.

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce CEO, Tania Witheford.

Cambridge Chamber of Commerce CEO, Tania Witheford, said the chamber believes a third bridge is “critical” to Cambridge, especially the central business district. “While the current data does not support a new or alternative/enhanced river crossing, traffic volumes have increased dramatically over the past 3-4 years and will continue to do so as the area grows,” she said.

Council’s road corridor manager Bryan Hudson said around 27,000 vehicles a day use either the high-level Victoria St bridge or the wider Shakespeare St structure to cross the river.  While Shakespeare St had more capacity than the Victoria St bridge, it was used by 26 per cent fewer vehicles in 2016. The Beca report noted that at peak hours, Cambridge drivers might encounter an average 1-2 minute delay in crossing the river.

Ms Witheford said that “resilience and future planning are central to the consideration of a third bridge, rather than being based on ‘congestion’”.

As part of its report, Beca did a high-level assessment of four potential locations for a new bridge. They included extending Vogel St south to the river; building a new bridge west of the town belt; extending Hanlin Rd near the Avantidrome and constructing a bridge from the southern end of Hall St.

A fifth option was building a new bridge beside the 110-year old Victoria Street bridge.  The existing bridge could then potentially be closed to traffic and used only by walkers and cyclists.

Beca has now been commissioned by the Council to investigate the resilience of the Victoria St bridge and estimate its long-term maintenance costs.

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