Bridge under investigation to replace 'death trap' SH6 crossing

by Lauren Pattemore - Mar 02, 2023

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is testing the viability of a pedestrian and cycling bridge over State Highway Six near Frankton after two years of community campaigning.

The community campaigned and Waka Kotahi has listened. Will a new bridge soon span SH6?

The transport agency is now undertaking geotechnical testing to foundation options.

If it's feasible, the bridge will connect Jim’s Way to Hardware Lane.

Now, walkers and cyclists heading to and from Frankton are forced to compete with vehicles to cross the busy stretch of state highway.

Queenstown Trails Trust chief executive Mark Williams says they first brought the proposal to Waka Kotahi in early 2021, having seen the need for the safer connection, but initially had “cold water poured on it”.

“One of the major issues is the severance that State Highway Six causes…a lot of the residential suburbs are on the northern side of the highway, where people are trying to get to the southern side of the highway."

The trust partnered up with Lightfoot Initiative and "lobbied and campaigned and advocated" for the separated crossing, he says.

More businesses, schools, preschools and organisations added their voices in support.

“The big message here is that community involvement and community advocacy does result in the right outcomes if we make enough noise, and we're really stoked NZTA have listened."

Engineers are running tests beside State Highway Six this week at the site of a proposed over bridge for cyclists and pedestrians (Image: Waka Kotahi).

Mr Williams says the current route is a “death trap”, using a designated road crossing on the highway, located outside Bunnings.

This section of road is “extremely busy”, with an 80-kilometer-an-hour speed limit and a centre island not wide enough for someone to stand with a bike, Mr Williams says.

Many kids who could get themselves to school under their own steam don’t, because of the risk involved with using the crossing, and parents are transporting them instead, he says.

“They're sending them to school in cars and obviously the idea here is to get people out of cars.”

The new bridge – if it goes ahead – will connect with the A2 route of the Whakatipu Active Travel Network. The route starts at Old Shotover River/Kimiākau Bridge on the southern side of the highway.

The new section will also connect to an existing active travel route linking to Shotover Country and Lake Hayes Estate.

“The trail on the southern side of the state highway’s already there, it's already formed, and then using that connection bridge to get through to Five Mile, through to the event centre and onward towards Queenstown," Mr Williams says.

If engineers say it can work, a bridge about here over SH6 may be built as an active transport link.

Waka Kotahi says design plans are being prepared and further community engagement will follow its investigations into the bridge’s viability.

Its director of regional relationships James Caygill says the bridge wasn't part of initial plans for the Whakatipu Active Travel Network, but they've pivoted after listening to the community.

Lightfoot Initiative's Amanda Robinson says "so many people in the community" have supported the campaign, and it's "a great example of how constructive, positive, community-based action can actually make a major difference".

The state highway is a challenge to active transport adoption for so many residents needing to cross it for their commute, she says.

"There's obvious benefits to building a bridge that opens up the whole network to all users.

"The result: widespread reduction in car use, kids can bike to high school, people can bike or walk to Frankton."

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