Council pushing forward on second bridge option

The existing Ashburton River bridge.

“Stop kicking the can down the road,” Ashburton District councillor John Falloon says, after listening to more than an hour of discussions about the best option for a second Ashburton urban bridge.

Cr Falloon was at a council meeting last week to discuss whether to progress a business case for a second bridge.

He used the phrase after 90 minutes of discussions and the grilling of Stantec transport engineer Chris Rossiter, who told council a bridge off Chalmers Avenue was the best option and offered the most benefits.

Stantec compiled a 183-page report and indicative business case for council on bridge location options, modelling and timeframes for building.

Many other councillors were also keen to progress the project 15 years in the making. All councillors, except Cr Diane Rawlinson, agreed to support a recommendation that an indicative business case, strategic case and options assessment be forwarded to NZTA to advance to the next stage of the business case.

councillors was Chalmers Avenue was the best location for a second bridge, and the latest report reaffirmed it, Cr Falloon said. He now supported that location and had changed his views after the May 31 flood, which had isolated the community into two parts.

A second bridge at Chalmers Avenue was a cheap option for NZTA and Ashburton would end up picking up a fair amount of the cost, he said.

“Of paramount importance is to get a second bridge, the sooner the better, and to stop kicking the can down the road.”

Cr Liz McMillan said council needed to get on with the business case.

Cr Rodger Letham said he reluctantly supported the motion. “Every report has recommended Chalmers Avenue,” he said.

Mayor Neil Brown said connectivity was essential and another bridge was needed sooner rather than later. There had been previous consultation on the Chalmers Avenue location and some people were not happy with it, but many were. Getting a bridge in 2026/27 was a long way out and the process needed to be sped up. Funding support from NZTA was still needed and he hoped it would be 80 per cent, although only 50 per cent would be funded as of right, he said.

A suggestion by Cr Carolyn Cameron for more consultation on a bridge location was shot down by other councillors and she was told that action could “derail” the entire process and put support funding in jeopardy.

Cr Diane Rawlinson said she was disappointed that there was no costing to have a second bridge beside the current bridge.

-By Mick Jensen