OPINION: A second bridge at Palmerston North across the Manawatu River has been a talking point for decades.
During some periods, it has probably seemed like a long-term inevitability for a growing city.
Apart from the logic of a growing city needing a second bridge, which would be convenient for motorists, the case has never really been based on much. It was always a fair distance from proven.
Even with a population of more than 80,000 in the city, the case remains uncompelling and it is not surprising that it has now nearly unravelled.
All of the discussions and planning appear to have come to nought. No longer can this project be tagged with a "when, not if" label.
There are good reasons for this. Chief among them is that there is not yet enough development on the other side of the river to warrant a second bridge.
The most significant piece of real estate on that side is Massey University and that has a bridge near it.
Nor is further serious residential development on that side of the river likely in the medium term.
The likely abandonment of the second bridge might look to some citizens like poor planning, but most will probably see it as an acknowledgment of reality.
City councillors have at last conceded there is no point planning for something that is forever on the long-term radar as a fading blip.
If, eventually, a second bridge becomes a priority, it is a near certainty it won't be in the vicinity of Staces Rd, linking southbound traffic to the Pahiatua Track.
This is a dream, though, that has been let go reluctantly.
Until recently, the prevailing thought was that there would be development in the Aokautere and Te Matai area and this would lead to more traffic there, which would help create vehicle counts high enough for the NZ Transport Agency to commit a big subsidy for a bridge.
The transport agency has never given the impression it was enthusiastic about the idea.
Even when a regional transport committee laid it down as a priority, the national funder had the look of an entity with its arm twisted.
The transport agency has a good grasp of which projects are worthwhile and which ones are of doubtful value and it has long looked sceptical at best.
The trouble is the Pahiatua Track is not designed for large volumes of traffic. There is no real prospect of it ever being feasible to carry out much work there.
Meaningful improvement to the road would be expensive and would benefit too few motorists.
For the main routes east of Palmerston North, it is more important to have a good link to Hawke's Bay than to Wairarapa.
For bridge proponents, the writing has been on the wall for a little while.
Te Matai was ruled out as an ideal site for residential development because of flooding worries, then analysis by city council staff about where Palmerston North should grow did not have Te Matai or Aokautere among the leaders.
That was followed by Aokautere landowner Steve Hopcroft pulling the plug on the long-hoped-for recreational lake and planned residential development.
If those nails in the coffin were not decisive enough, slips in the Manawatu Gorge last year probably ended any plausible chance of the project happening, even under a long-term horizon.
With millions of dollars being spent on repairing the state highway through the Manawatu Gorge, the region could not realistically expect to find sympathetic ears in Wellington for more cash. Palmerston North City Council is in an awkward spot with the bus terminal project.
Uninspiring facilities at Pitt St create some urgency in the drive for a solution. And people waiting for action tell the city council to get on with it.
So the council finally gets its wheels moving, but then the prospect of smelly, noisy buses in The Square creates an uproar, with howls of indignation about lack of consultation and possible harm to Broadway Ave.
It's hard to put a finger on what a winning formula might be.
Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor is right to point out that the council can't do nothing on this issue forever.
And it's understandable that Horizons regional councillor Vern Chettleburgh is bemused by what seems to be an attempt by some city councillors to turn a study by Horizons into a reason for further delay.
Whatever comes out of the Horizons study, it will shed little light on where the bus terminal should be and it's unlikely to make much difference in determining what sort of facility should be there.
Grant Miller is the Manawatu Standard's head of content and a politics junkie.
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