Community comment: Costing the new bridge

John Barns Graham

Congratulations to Cambridge News for printing the excellent article featuring Councillor Roger Gordon’s concerns about the traffic chaos that is Cambridge, and the following letters of support for him and a third bridge.

It is obvious that the Council’s estimations on traffic have been drastically underestimated in the figures from the Waikato Regional Traffic Management (WRTM) forecast for 2021, which are published in the 2018 Beca report.

For instance the total figure for the two carriageways past Good George was forecast to be 14,673 vehicles and is 23,687. That is an increase of over 60%.

The Ferguson bridge carries twice the amount of traffic forecast by WRTM, and the Hamilton road 3 times more.

I was asked by a group to look at where a third bridge should go, This necessitated that I look at everything the Waipā District Council has said about the matter over the last several years. I have been shocked with what I have found.

In 2018 a Waipa District Council representative told meeting of the Chamber of Commerce a new bridge would cost $60-70 million at least. That statement has been repeated by WDC on many occasions. However, a quick search of bridges built or contracted from 2015 to 2022 by Waka Kotahi on state highways showed that the cost should be at most 40% of that. Prices were in the $20 to $25 million range.

The construction cost of Cambridge Bypass – seven bridges, a 200m viaduct and 16kms of highway was published as $182 million and would indicate that $60 to $70 million was excessive for one bridge.

Then on looking at the traffic flows it was obvious that other councils consider the daily traffic figures requiring new bridges much less than Waipā does. Figures for the Victoria bridge are over 14,000 a day, where the 2018 Kawarau Bridge, on SH6 near Queenstown, was replaced when traffic numbers were 8,598, and the 2020 Opaoa bridge on SH1 the daily numbers of 9,800

WDC added that their estimate was for a replacement close to the Victoria Bridge. This would be highly unlikely to be allowed due to the historic status of the old bridge, and additionally what planner would plan for Heavy Goods vehicles to go through the centre of town?

There are many worrying aspects of WDC decisions over the last few years, but the present suggestion that Waka Kotahi is being awkward, which was stated at a recent Council Meeting, is surely Waka Kotahi just reacting to being presented with a vastly overpriced estimate from Council.

WDC would be better to hire Waka Kotahi to tender for the new bridge, which would result in a cost closer to the $21 million average elsewhere since 2018. In this way Waka Kotahi will ensure that we, the ratepayers, and they themselves are not paying over the odds.

  • John Barns Graham is a former farmer and manager of the New Zealand Jersey Cattle Breeders Association, now retired.

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