Bridge to Peacocke: functional or a feature for Hamilton?

A bridge to Peacocke would cost $50 to $60 million, Hamilton City Council says. 

It will span the Waikato River, it will cost about $60 million and it will link a new suburb with the city.

But Hamiltonians will have to wait and see whether their new bridge to Peacocke will be stock standard or a statement.

A bridge to the southwest area is key to Hamilton City Council's plans for new housing - and while some councillors are dreaming of a Fairfield-esque feature, cost concerns are ever present.

The bridge itself is expected to cost $50m to $60m, but associated roading links take the project to about $113m.

NZ Transport Agency subsidies should cover around half, so council would need to fund about $56.5m - possibly through an interest-free Government loan if it accepts the Housing Infrastructure Fund offer.

A feature bridge would be lovely, Mayor Andrew King said.

Fairfield Bridge is beautiful, he said, but many of the city's other bridges are ho-hum.

"I often see those bridges that have the pylons on either side come right up high and then they have the cables coming down into the middle of the bridge to hold it up," he said.

"It would be lovely to be able to fit that into the budget."

The theme was common among councillors - the desire for a signature bridge but something that won't break the bank.

"There will be little appetite for any luxury spend, but there will be appetite for innovative design within budget," Deputy Mayor Martin Gallagher said.

"It's amazing what you can do with the right design of railings and other parts that can add to the appearance of the area."

Growth and infrastructure committee chairman Dave Macpherson was keen on something like a suspension bridge.

"The general feeling of councillors that I have spoken to is, if we can afford it, they would like to see something that doesn't look like two straight beams of steel with a road laid on top of them," he said.

Macpherson had seen examples he liked in Auckland and Brisbane, and thought pedestrian and cycling options could be included.
Several councillors echoed that idea.

Provisions for walking and cycling are essential, Gallagher said, especially since it will be close to Hamilton Gardens and riverside paths.
Practical concerns like reducing congestion and catering for growth were at the top of Councillor Garry Mallett's list.

"I'm not saying I want an ugly bridge at all. To the extent that you can get a functional bridge that looks attractive, I say go for it."

But no one talks about how beautiful a highway is, he said - people want it to be safe and free of potholes.

Cr Rob Pascoe hadn't yet given much thought to the design.

"If we can make a statement out of the bridge without it costing us millions ... then I would certainly support a discussion."

Just building a bridge means huge money, Cr Geoff Taylor said, but one near the Hamilton Gardens must be attractive.

"Everything [NZ Transport Association] designs now looks pretty good, anyway."

Many would say the time is right for a beautiful bridge, Property Council Waikato branch president Thomas Gibbons said.

It also needs to be future-proofed to avoid a bottleneck, like at Pukete, which had to be widened in 2013 due to traffic pressure.

If council decided to go ahead with the Housing Infrastructure Fund loan, the bridge could probably be complete within five years, council city development manager Andrew Parsons said in a statement.

The bridge would span about 215m and follow the alignment of a Wairere Drive extension - east of Hamilton Gardens and the existing Galloway Street/Cobham Drive roundabout, he said.