Andrew Dickens: Our cheap arse, short term approach to infrastructure has cost us dearly

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It’s been two weeks since my last show on Newstalk ZB which means a fortnight listening to howls of outrage over cycle bridges and rail links.
And I’ve come to the conclusion that New Zealanders do not and have not understood infrastructure and it’s planning.
The news that a dedicated three quarter of a billion dollar pedestrian and bike bridge will be constructed next to the Auckland Harbour Bridge horrified me. And that’s saying something since I am a dedicated bike commuter and have been all my life.
It’s just too expensive and the cost benefit does not stack up. In parliament, the Prime Minister estimated the Bridge would have 3000 crossings a day meaning a cost of $12.50 a crossing. That was a big underestimation and many calculate it is more like $50 a crossing.
Well, cyclists are already crossing the harbour on ferries and it’s costing them $5 a crossing on their HOP card so its more expensive than the current regime.
And here’s a point. Why don’t we charge the cyclists $12.50 a crossing the same way we charged motorists 20 cents a crossing in the early days of the Harbour Bridge in the first place? That would be an interesting test of the market for such a bridge.
It all begs the question why we just don’t expand the existing bike service. Three ferries with capacity of 50 bikes each would do it and at a cost of around 100 million. Make them electric too.
All of this not taking into account the real problem which is the capacity of the Bridge itself. Car numbers will not reduce because the government’s intention seems to be to replace carbon fuelled vehicles with electric vehicles.
This is a problem that has been acknowledged since the Bridge was first proposed in the first place. Options have been presented for decades. Leading the pack, a new bridge beside the existing bridge providing new lanes and a double train tunnel.
But somehow those ideas were thrown out at a moment’s consideration for a bike lane. Why?
I can only think the problem is that infrastructure decisions are I the hands of politicians who sway and bend in three year cycles.
Infrastructure needs more long term planning and it needs to be out of the hands of politicians.
Ashburton’s Bridge needed to be replaced with a longer spanned bridge decades ago. But wasn’t. Ideas to increase Auckland Harbour Bridge’s capacity should have been in place in the 80s.
Do I have to remind you again that Sydney started built it’s underground rail system and it’s bridge in the 30s. Nearly 100 years ago when the population of the town was 1 million. And the bridge they built has road rail cycle and pedestrian lanes and lines.
Our cheap arse short termism has cost us dearly and will continue to for the foreseeable future.

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