The new bridge will provide:
- two full traffic lanes
- sealed shoulders suitable for cycling
- footpath on one side of the bridge
- an enhanced southern highway entrance to Queenstown
The new two-lane bridge will be built just downstream from the existing bridge with a modified northern approach from Frankton. The southern approach will tie in with the present highway that runs along the river bank. It will be approximately 250 metres long and 14 metres wide constructed on a curve with a 163 metre radius and designed to withstand a once in every 2,500 year earthquake.
The new bridge design comprises four steel beams spanning between single column piers located 45 metres apart, with a slim superstructure that compliments the form of the existing dam structure. Guardrails that meet safety requirements will maximise the views of the river for bridge users.
Current bridge facts
- The average daily two-way traffic count in 2016 on the existing single bridge was 8,598 vehicles.
- Between 2012 and 2016 there were two recorded crashes near the bridge resulting in a minor injury plus eight recorded non-injury crashes
The bridge alignment selected during the project investigation phase received minor adjustments during the preliminary design work (Specimen Design) to maximise the separation of the new bridge from the existing bridge/dam structure.
Consents needed from the Otago Regional Council to build the new bridge have been obtained and contain conditions to protect the environment. The appeals on the Notice of Requirement to alter the State highway designation were withdrawn in November 2013 enabling the Environment Court to confirm the designation.
The Government announced in June 2014 through its regional roading package that funding would be available to enable a start on constructing the new bridge in 2014/1 (external link) .
Expressions of interest were sought for the Design and Construction of the bridge and five national contractors were selected. Two withdrew before tenders closed but three very strong bids were received at the end of June 2015. McConnell Dowell Constructors were awarded the Design and Construct contract in early September 2015.
In 2001 a Scoping Report identified eight potential options for a new river bridge at Kawarau Falls. Consultation on these included public meetings and targeted consultation with interest groups. In 2003 a Scheme Assessment Report (SAR) was prepared considering four remaining options. Further consultation resulted in a preferred option for the new bridge being identified.
In 2005 an addendum to the Scheme Assessment Report was commissioned to review and confirm the preferred option. As part of that review, further analysis was undertaken including a full geotechnical investigation. Consultation was undertaken with the affected parties as part of the preparation of resource consents to permit the geotechnical investigation in the river and on the river banks.
A public open day was held in Frankton in December 2011 as part of the preparation of the Notice of Requirement and resource consents for the new bridge construction. The Notice of Requirement enabled the present State highway designation to be altered to accommodate construction of the new bridge, then its operation as part of the highway network.
Following a public hearing in February 2013 before Commissioners appointed by Queenstown Lakes District Council, a decision was issued. The was appealed, but the Environment Court confirmed the decision with some minor changes and the altered designation is now part of the District Plan.
What can be expected?
The new bridge contractor McConnell Dowell, is making great progress on the bridge superstructure with concreting of the bridge deck expected to commence in July 2017. Another focus area is the southern approach to the new bridge and the river level retaining wall. This wall is scheduled to be finished in September clearing the way for the construction of the southern road approach to the bridge. On the northern approach, work on the first section of a cycling and pedestrian underpass will commence in June 2017. Completion of the contract is currently programmed for the fourth quarter of 2017 with the new bridge expected to open to two-way traffic in time for the busy Christmas/New Year holiday period.
Once the new bridge is carrying two-way traffic the existing historic one-lane will be transformed into a walking and cycling route as part of the Wakatipu Ride. It will greatly enhance the Queenstown Trails Network and provide an attractive meeting point for cyclists and pedestrians. Signage explaining the history of the area, including both Maori and European settlement, will be provided.
Until the new two-lane bridge is built, the existing bridge will continue to operate safely without any vehicle weight restrictions.