Closure sparks call for third bridge

19:52, Aug 25 2011
Slip sliding away: Workers investigate a slip which has closed the Victoria Bridge in Cambridge.
Slip sliding away: Workers investigate a slip which has closed the Victoria Bridge in Cambridge.

The closure of Cambridge's Victoria Bridge this week has reignited the debate a third bridge is needed in the town.  

Waipa District Council closed the bridge for at least a week yesterday after contractors who had been repairing an earlier slip on the southern riverbank identified a new slip underneath its foundation which they feared had made it unsafe.

They are still trying to assess whether the bridge is dangerous.

Victoria Bridge
1907 - The Victoria Bridge, also known as the high level bridge, was built in seven months. It  sits 35.4m above the Waikato River.
1925 - Vehicles replaced horses and the softwood deck was replaced with hardwood and footpaths were added.
1960s - The deck was again replaced with reinforced concrete.
1964 - The low level Fergusson Bridge was opened.
1990 - Vehicles weighing more than two tonnes were banned from using the bridge.
1994 - Waipa District Council discussed the idea of a third bridge and a site was identified near the Aotearoa Industrial Estate. Opposition meant it was later dropped from the draft annual plan.
1995 - The two tonne ban extended to include fire engines and ambulances. Height restriction trusses added.
1996 - The council commissioned a bolt-by-bolt examination to see how much longer it could safely carry vehicles.

Council service delivery manager Barry Bergin said it was too soon to predict how long Victoria Bridge might be closed if assessment found any major foundation repair work needed to be done.

Meanwhile, long-time resident and former council member Jim Wilkinson said a third bridge would help the town to prosper and increase the feeling of unity between Cambridge and Leamington.

"A lot of people won't go to Leamington because they won't go over the high level bridge," he said.


Older people on both sides of the bridge felt isolated because they were not confident to drive on the "high and narrow" Victoria Bridge, or on the "busy and fast" SH1 if they used the low Fergusson Bridge.

Businesses in Leamington suffered because potential customers were put off having to use the existing bridges. He thought a Christchurch-style ring road around Cambridge would be ideal for increasing the flow across the two areas.

Mr Wilkinson was concerned the council had more interest in spending rates on "luxuries" such as the controversial velodrome.

"I think we need facilities before we need toys."

But Mayor Alan Livingston said  a  study done in 2007 showed traffic in the town was not at a capacity where a third bridge was necessary.

"That's the expert transport advice that's been provided to the council."

Mr Livingston said once the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway was completed in 2015, the town's traffic would diminish even further.

"All going to plan it will mean a reduction of 18,000 vehicles per day of State Highway 1 through traffic."

Comparing roading upgrades  such as a bridge  with "museums and libraries" was like comparing "apples with zebras", Mr Livingston said.

Detective Scott McDougall of Cambridge police said they had fielded "numerous" calls from people  complaining about the closed bridge, but he urged patience and consideration.

He said the closed bridge added a small amount of travel time onto police callouts on the Leamington side of the river, but the difference was not enough to cause them concern.

Traffic constable Peter Leng said a traffic management system was in place, with signs diverting traffic, and stop/go boards in use at intersections that were busier due to Victoria Bridge being closed.

Waikato Times