Council vague on tired Queenstown bridge

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Queenstown’s mayor says the council’s made no commitment as yet to maintain the old Kawarau Falls Bridge.

NZ Transport Agency is retiring the single-lane traffic-clogger for a bells-and-whistles $20 million replacement.

The existing bridge has been earmarked as a cycling and walking track.

And the agency’s tender document confirms its surface will be refurbished and the bridge connected to walking and cycling tracks as part of the new bridge construction project.

But mayor Vanessa van Uden says future ownership is still at the discussion stage.

Queenstown Lakes District Council is in talks with NZTA and the Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment, which owns the structure, over the “possible eventual transfer” to council ownership.

“It’s been suggested that the bridge could be maintained as a walking and cycling route once the new bridge is open,” Van Uden says.

“The council hasn’t made any commitment to this, and it would require a formal agreement to be negotiated.”

Van Uden says the physical state of the 1926 bridge and dam structure is one of the important considerations the council needs to take into account.

“We’re waiting for the results of a more detailed assessment of the underwater portion of the structure, which NZTA is currently investigating.

“NZTA tells us they have no structural concerns from the inspections conducted to date.

“Once we have the results and analysis, we will better be able to understand the condition of the bridge and what it would be likely to cost the council to maintain it, if ownership were transferred.”

The new bridge has been fast-tracked as promised by Prime Minister John Key in an election pledge in June.

The specimen design is for a 250 metre-long and 14m wide construction in a graceful horizontal curve.

Guardrails will be used that maximise the view of the river for people crossing the bridge.

It will be immediately downstream from the existing bridge. The new bridge is designed using steel beams spanning between piers 45m apart.

Opting for a composite steel and concrete design means the bridge can be built quicker and is expected to cost $2m less than a concrete box bridge design.

The tender period will begin in January with the contract likely to be awarded in June.

Work is expected to start late 2015 with the new bridge opening early 2017.