$1.3m bridge to provide missing link for two-wheeled travellers
The suspense is nearly over for cyclists, with construction soon to start on a $1.3 million suspension bridge over the Waikato River.
Concept designs have just been released for the bridge, which will form a vital final link in the chain of the Te Awa Great NZ River Ride – the cycleway that stretches alongside the river that, once complete, will extend 70 kilometres from Ngaruawahia to Horahora, 20km south of the Mighty River Domain at Lake Karapiro.
Gold medal-winning Olympian track cyclist Sarah Ulmer, a trustee on the Te Awa charitable trust, said work on the bridge would get under way in late August or early September, and construction would happen at the same time as the final 7.5km segment of the track from Ngaruawahia to the old Horotiu Bridge.
All things going to plan, the track would open in December, and Ulmer said she couldn't wait to give it a test ride.
"We are just getting the final consents sorted, so hopefully it will be all go real soon," she said.
The suspension bridge had ended up costing a little more than originally envisaged, but that was because they decided to go for higher specifications than what was initially planned.
"It's going to be a real feature of the ride, so that's why we decided to make a real investment in it and not cut any corners."
When asked about low-grade Chinese-made steel, Ulmer responded with a healthy guffaw.
"No, no way," she laughed.
The 7.5km stretch of the track along the eastern side of the river would be the major part – "the guts" – of the project, she said.
The total cost for that stretch was about $4.7m – of which about $2.7m was being funded by the NZ Transport Agency. The rest had been made up from contributions by the Waikato District Council, the NZ Community Trust, Lion Foundation, Trust Waikato, WEL Energy Trust, Perry Group and Brian Perry Trust, Trillian Trust and Grassroots Trust.
The cycle bridge became a necessity after the Te Awa River Ride Trust was unable to obtain permission to build the cycleway on riverside land at Horotiu owned by meat processor Affco, near the firm's wastewater plant.
Affco had not chipped in funds for the cycleway, Ulmer confirmed.
"I have ridden the Ngaruawahia section a few times and it is just beautiful. The scenery is fantastic. You can often see a waka or two on the river.
"I am really looking forward to the day when I can ride all the way from Ngaruawahia to the Hamilton Gardens. It's going to be a great journey."