Green Party calls for temporary bus lane on Harbour Bridge to ease congestion
The Green Party is calling for a temporary bus lane on Auckland's damaged Harbour Bridge to help by-pass congestion.
The bridge is currently operating at half-capacity after a strut was damaged by a falling truck on Friday when it partially toppled in 127 km/h wind gusts.
Only four lanes on the bridge are able to be used, but none of these are dedicated bus lanes, resulting in public transport users being stuck in congestion during peak traffic hours.
The Greens are calling for NZTA to convert a lane over the bridge to bus-only and to make buses free to use across the bridge until all lanes are back in operation.
It is currently estimated a permanent bridge repair will likely take more than a month.
Green Party transport spokesperson Julie Anne Genter said a dedicated bus lane can carry "about seven-times more people" than a single car lane, meaning many people can cross the bridge without facing any congestion.
"Already buses can by-pass congestion via the busway all the way from Albany, but buses are being massively delayed when they have to merge into general traffic on the bridge," Genter said.
"A bus lane during the morning and evening peak hour will allow thousands of Auckland commuters to by-pass the congestion."
Additionally, making public transport free while the bridge is under-repair would encourage reluctant bus users to leave their cars at home, Genter said.
"This will help free-up space on the road for people that have no other option but to drive."
NZTA Transport Services general manager Brett Gliddon said work will start on Tuesday night on a temporary fix to the strut.
"Waka Kotahi [NZTA] is now confident it has a temporary solution to repair the damaged strut which will allow one extra lane in each direction to be opened on the centre span of the bridge," Gliddon said.
"This is a complex undertaking and has never been done before so the bridge team must do extensive testing on the bridge before opening it up to live traffic."
This includes a mathematical peer review by independent experts which NZTA is doing alongside the construction of the temporary replacement piece.
"Once the temporary fix is in place there will be real life testing with heavy vehicles to ensure it performs to the design specifications and requirements. Only then will a final decision be made about whether the temporary fix is suitable to allow the re-opening of additional lanes."
Once that decision has been made, Gliddon said the expectation is two extra lanes in the centre span of the bridge - one northbound and one southbound - could open up to traffic later this week.
Genter said in the long term, the Greens support a second harbour crossing in the form of a rail line connecting the CBD to Takapuna and Albany.
"A rail crossing will give thousands of people the freedom to leave the car at home and by-pass traffic congestion and get to the city quickly," she said.
"We don't support another road crossing as it is forecast to funnel an additional 5400 cars into and through the city in the morning peak, worsening congestion and climate pollution."