The Third Bridge Lane South – What You Need to Know

The Christchurch Urban Development Strategy Implementation Group last Friday resolved to support a recommendation to the New Zealand Transport Authority which advocates construction of a third lane southbound on the Waimakariri River bridge.

WaimakaririBridgeNZTA is expected to decide whether to act on the resolution by June, which would allow the third southbound lane to become part of a fully integrated traffic solution (including public transport) for the greater Christchurch transport network.

Anecdotal commuter experiences, which are backed by recent modelling, suggest the southbound bridge is currently operating at its capacity during the morning peak hours.

The costs of adding the third lane south now together with a dedicated cycle lane is approximately $20 million. If delayed five years, by which time NZTA believes congestion would be at unacceptable levels, the cost of the project would rise to $34 million.

Constructing the additional the lane now will allow it to be integrated with the current work on the Northern Arterial route into Christchurch.

That work is on-schedule, with the Western Belfast Bypass due for completion early next year while the Northern Arterial (with or without a third lane south on the bridge) should be online by late 2019 or early 2020.

Both the Bypass and the Northern Arterial are expected to significantly relieve current congestion on the morning run into the city.

While the third lane south on the bridge will assist further, there is no doubt that commuter patterns must also change, and the proposed bridge alterations do come hand-in-hand with an effort to enhance public transport use as part of the overall transport strategy.

Single vehicle occupancy rates among Waimakariri commuters are currently 84%, which is a major factor in the congestion we see now.

Changing behavioural patterns by improving vehicle occupancy rates and making public transport journeys quicker, with the introduction of a high occupancy vehicle lane between Tram Road and QEII Drive, form an important part of the approach.

High occupancy/public transport vehicle lanes are commonly used during peak times, with great effect, in larger cities around the world.

They are designed to advantage vehicles with more people, allowing them a far easier journey.

The lanes are also used by Public Transport, increasing the time efficiency of those services.

While a welcome addition, the third lane on the southbound bridge will not solve this issue on its own.

Increasing the public transport focus across the old main north road bridge could also be developed as an important part of this project.