It’s heartening to read in today’s NZ Herald that plans are advancing quite quickly to extend the Wynyard Tramway loop over the Viaduct Harbour and to connect with Britomart transport centre in the relatively near future.
Waterfront Auckland planning and design manager Rod Marler said the carnation-red heritage trams were a great short-term attraction for capturing the imagination and emotions of Aucklanders but the tram tracks, future-proofed to take light rail, offered a bigger opportunity along the waterfront.
The tram extension is expected to cost $8.1 million plus the cost of a new crossing, which is expected to be a lot less than the $47.3 million cost of an earlier plan for a permanent bridge across the Viaduct Harbour.
Auckland Council transport chairman Mike Lee said extending the trams less than 1km to Britomart would increase their value as a tourism attraction, picking up cruise ships visitors along the way.
Mr Lee, who as chairman of the Auckland Regional Council championed the $8 million set-up costs of the Wynyard Loop, said he favoured another crossing for trams as close as possible to the new $3.7 million pedestrian and cycling bridge across the Viaduct Harbour.
Work on laying tracks to Britomart could start at Christmas, and the project could be completed in about a year, he said.
I’ve always had some reservations about the tramway loop being so isolated from the rest of Auckland’s transport system – although I certainly understand that building the loop as quickly as it has been constructed was only possible because the connection to Britomart was pushed back into becoming a future project. Once the trams are connected to Britomart the opportunities are endless: continue along Quay Street and Tamaki Drive to St Heliers (much like the F & Market in San Francisco) or head up Queen Street and then along Dominion Road with modern light-rail vehicles as a way to cope with increasing public transport demand along that critical corridor?
In terms of the first step, to link with Britomart, I also like the idea of building a second bridge to carry the trams, rather than trying to rebuild the existing pedestrian bridge to do that job – as the new bridge could probably be a fair bit shorter and could be quite narrow if it doesn’t have to be shared with pedestrians. A very short second bridge on the eastern side of Te Wero island is probably going to be necessary as well, because of clearance issues with the old lifting bridge.
The tram plan forms part of a “Waterfront Plan” that the Waterfront Auckland CCO has been formulating. It has a number of great ideas:
It contained a lot of relatively inexpensive “quick hits”, such as a $9.2 million walking and cycling boulevard from the Auckland Harbour Bridge to Teal Park, and expensive “aspirational” projects, such as a new island off Westhaven Marina, built from dredgings, where people could live on boats.
The plan includes many projects already proposed, such as the boulevarding of Quay St from lower Hobson St to Britomart Place, creating a 4.25ha headland park at Wynyard Quarter, building a cruise ship terminal on Queens Wharf and a $4.4 million upgrade of St Marys Bay beach.
New ideas include a salt-water pool at the end of Queens Wharf similar to Sydney’s Andrew (Boy) Charlton Pool, a wharf extension at the end of Wynyard Quarter for historic ships and waka, and spending $700,000 to tear up the bland paving at Waitemata Plaza to create a green space in the Viaduct Harbour.
Another idea is to extend the Halsey St wharf outside the Viaduct Harbour for a new sheltered water space that could be used for dragon boat racing and other recreational activities.
So many great plans. So many great ideas. This is an exciting time for Auckland.