Two new $285,000 cyclist and pedestrian bridges built over a stream at either end of the Takitumu Toll Road are part of the plan to create a commuter hub around the city.
One of the bridges was built at the State Highway 29 end of the toll road and the other crosses the Kopurererua Stream near Birch Ave and the Historic Village. That means people could park at the Historic Village to bike or walk through the Kopurererua Valley and link up with existing cycle trails in The Lakes subdivision.
Micheal Vujnovich, Tauranga City Council's manager for Project Tauranga, said the two bridges were strategically important additions for the growing city. The bridge at the southern end of the trail, near the former toll gates, was 16m long and connected with the underpass providing access to The Lakes.
The other bridge was 18m long and crossed the Kopurererua Stream at the northern end of the reserve, providing access to the Judea industrial estate and linking into Birch Ave and Koromiko St. Mr Vujnovich said funding the bridges and some directional signage was made possible under the council's Project Tauranga City partnership programme, with a $175,000 grant from Tauranga Energy Consumer Trust and $110,000 from council's reserves budget.
"The bridges are not formally open yet, but people can use them if they're mindful of trip hazards on either side. There's another couple of months of work still to be done to complete the approaches to each bridge," he said. Mr Vujnovich said a pedestrian and cycleway overbridge over Takitumu Drive Toll Road was at the early design stage, with construction expected to start later this year. "It would provide a pedestrian link across Takitumu Drive at the south end."
Mr Vujnovich said the overbridge project budget was about $3 million, mostly funded through the Urban Cycleways Programme, which is money from central government, through a ministerial fund. The remainder was through citywide development contributions. "We are joining up the network piece by piece, creating connections between suburbs that were previously isolated from each other," he said.
Bruce Galloway, deputy chairman of the Bay of Plenty Community Trails Trust, said the two bridges, which took six weeks to construct, were almost two years in the planning. Mr Galloway said the new bridges were a "great asset" for the city and he believed these new cycle trails would help bring even more tourists to the city. "I think it's fantastic. These bridges will be great for families. It gives us a much needed circular route, and a major link from The Lakes to the CDB commuter route," he said.
Chris Ingram, of Tauranga Cyclists and Walkers, said the two new bridges were a "fantastic" step towards an off-road safer "commuter hub" for cyclists and pedestrians around the city. Mr Ingram said while completion could possibly be a year or more away, it was another exciting development which had been first mooted many years ago.
"Yeah, it's all starting to happen now after so many years of talking about it, which is so awesome, and there is so much more to do here," he said.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the new cycle bridges and planned overbridge were all part of a total $17m investment in cycleways in Tauranga and Western Bay of Plenty. Mr Bridges said once the Urban Cycleways Network Connections programme was completed it would be like a big "spider web" of cycle-pedestrian commuter routes for around the district.
"People love biking and connecting and linking up all these separate cycleways and trails will make it a lot safer and more attractive for users," he said. "It's really good news for bikers and it will only encourage more people to take up cycling both as a recreational activity and their mode of transport to and from work."
Mr Bridges said the bridges could only help to reduce traffic congestion, and at the same time encourage more people to adopt healthier lifestyles. These cycleways would be boon for the local economy, bring more domestic and international tourists to the region, he said.