Bottleneck bridge upgrade on Nats agenda

CHE BAKER
Last updated 05:00 30/06/2014

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The replacement of the Kawarau Falls Bridge is to be fast-tracked as part of a $212 million roading upgrade package announced by Prime Minister John Key.

Queenstown Lakes District Council chief executive officer Adam Feeley said it was good news the "longstanding issue" of the bridge was being addressed.

Not only would the new bridge benefit motorists at peak holiday times but the growing number of commuters from Kelvin Heights and Jacks Point would also see improvements, Feeley said.

The $20-25 million project was earmarked for a 2015-16 build but construction could start as early as this year.

Commissioners approved a New Zealand Transport Agency bid to replace the bridge in March last year.

The agency lodged a notice of requirement with the council to alter State Highway 6 in the district plan for a 252-metre long and 13.8m wide curving bridge.

The one-way bridge, built in 1926, was plagued by bottlenecks and delays as Queenstown has grown into a booming tourism destination.

Yesterday Key unveiled the $212 million package of road upgrades in his set-piece party conference speech in Wellington.

The package included cash for 14 schemes that would come from the Government's Future Investment Fund - proceeds from the sale of state-owned assets.

It set aside $80 million to accelerate five projects in Otago, Canterbury, Northland, Gisborne and Taranaki, another $115m to fund new replacements in Manawatu, Gisborne, Marlborough, Northland and the West Coast and $12m to investigate three projects in Nelson, Hawkes Bay and the Bay of Plenty.

The Government said regional councils have signalled the upgrades as a "high priority for a number of years".

Southland District Mayor Gary Tong said fast-tracking of the project would also benefit Southland and the upgrade would stop the bottleneck traffic caused at the bridge for people travelling to and from the area.

Despite Southland being left off the list, the projects included were "very major" and most had been in the pipeline for some time, Tong said.

Clutha-Southland MP Bill English and National Party candidate for Clutha-Southland Todd Barclay welcomed the announcement, but Green Party co-leader Russel Norman slammed the plan, saying it was an "election bribe" to offer roading upgrades from asset sales and the funding should come from operational budgets.

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