KF bridge five years away or $7m

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A new bridge at Kawarau Falls is at least five years away unless Queenstown developers stump up at least $7 million.

Despite more traffic choking the old one-lane bridge, the benefit-cost ratio is only just over half what it needs to be for full Government funding of an $18m two-lane replacement.

New Zealand Transport Agency Otago boss Bruce Richards says that’ll change if local developers – who’ll meet NZTA next month – cough up about 40 per cent.

Otherwise the project looks at least five years away.

“The unfortunate thing is, if there are accidents or a death, then the benefit-cost ratio starts going up rapidly.

“In some ways, it’s a bit of a shame – now we’ve got the bridge organised with [traffic] lights, we don’t have accidents.”

Traffic also needs to increase even further – in the last 12 months, it rose five per cent to an average 5650 vehicles daily, with a 9.2 per cent increase in heavy traffic.

Richards: “We have to have a significant queue for a significant amount of time.”

If it starts to cost the country for people to sit in queues, “it’s worth our while to build the bridge”, he says.

Richards won’t say which developers he’ll target – but Jack’s Point, which is projected to be home to 6000 people, would dub in a seven-figure contribution, says subdivision frontman John Darby.

“We’re keen to see [the new bridge] proceed sooner rather than later.”

However, Darby insists contributions must be fairly spread across all developers on the southern side of the bridge – including Kawarau Falls Station, currently in receivership but consented for 1200 hotel rooms and apartments.

Developers of potential housing in Kelvin Heights should also pay up, he maintains.

The cloud of receivership over Kawarau Falls raises a question mark, Darby agrees, despite stage one construction being unaffected so far.

Richards says if private funding is confirmed, “we just hit the go button and find someone who can design and build [the bridge] as soon as possible” – about a three-year project.

After engineering checks, the new bridge is likely to run on the diagonal from just before the Frankton end of the existing bridge to a point about halfway to the Peninsula Road turnoff.

The 1920s bridge would become a walkway/cycleway.