Third bridge for Cambridge


There are two existing road bridges across the Waikato River in Cambridge, the Victoria Street (high level)
and Shakespeare Street (low level) bridges. Approximately 28,000 vehicle movements are made across
these two bridges every day.

With an additional 14,000 people looking to call Cambridge home by 2050, Council needs to know if, and if so when, a third bridge would be required in Cambridge. In January 2018 a report was commissioned to answer these questions and guide any future planning.

Frequently asked questions

1. Why did Council commission a report on a potential third bridge?

Cambridge is growing and that impacts on traffic patterns. Currently, Cambridge is serviced by two bridges, the high-level bridge on Victoria Street, and the low-level bridge on Shakespeare Street, also known as Fergusson Bridge.

Council has always acknowledged that a third bridge across the Waikato River would be needed at some point and wanted to get more certainty around timeframes.

2. Who did the report?

The study was carried out by the Hamilton-based office of Beca, an independent company specialised in transport infrastructure. The cost of the report was just under $26,000.

Read the full report:  Cambridge Road Bridges Traffic Capacity and Demand Study [PDF, 47 pages, 4MB]

3. In summary, what did the report say?

That a third bridge in Cambridge would not be needed for another 20 years or so. The report found a third bridge would be needed in around 2048 and would likely come with a ‘rough order’ price tag of about $60 - $65 million. 

4. Have any further studies been commissioned?

Yes. Council has already commissioned an investigation into the resilience of the existing high-level bridge ( Victoria Street bridge) to estimate its long-term maintenance costs. This will have an impact on planning for the third bridge.

5. When will that investigation be available?

At this stage, the study into the long-term costs of maintaining the high-level bridge will be completed in early 2019.

6. Has Council set aside land for a third bridge?

No, not yet. While a number of potential bridge locations were broadly identified in the recent study by Beca, it's too soon to set aside land. The demand forecast for a third bridge does not require it to be done urgently so we have some time to proceed with this.

In order to set aside land, Council must prepare a detailed plan and assessment of environmental effects and change the District Plan. This would involve significant cost and public consultation. 

7. What's in the Council’s 30-year infrastructure strategy?

About $64 million has been allowed in the period 2028-2048 to investigate and build a new bridge.

8. Will the public get a chance to have their say?

Yes. Given the scale and importance of the project, it's likely Council may revisit the issue of a third bridge for Cambridge during public consultation for the next 10-Year Plan in 2021.

9. How old is the high-level bridge on Victoria St?  

It was opened in December 1907. Read more: Waipā history - Bridging the Waikato.

10. Is it still safe to use?

Yes, absolutely. The high-level bridge on Victoria Street receives regular inspections and maintenance to ensure its safety. Council has also commissioned a report which will allow us to estimate long-term maintenance costs, and help in terms of planning for a third bridge.

11. Can the high-level bridge be made wider?

Not easily (or cost-effectively). The bridge has a Class 1 heritage classification, meaning that significant alterations to the structure are considered undesirable.

The bridge was built in 1907 and the cycleway/walkways paths along the side were added more recently but the width of the bridge itself cannot be easily increased. 

12. How will Council encourage more use of the Shakespeare St bridge?

One of the recommendations of the Beca report was to encourage more traffic to use the Shakespeare Street bridge (low-level bridge) which has more capacity in peak times than the Victoria Street bridge.  This can be done through building public awareness and through changing intersections to make alternative routes more accessible.

The first steps to determine what intersection improvements might be made will come as we refresh the Cambridge town concept plan and look at the bigger picture of accessibility around Cambridge.

13. What's the cost to build a third bridge?

Independent advice suggests approximately $60 – 65 million. But those costs will depend on undetermined factors such as location, etc. 

As well as design and construction, the costs would include a business case review for bridge need, a detailed examination of potential bridge locations, assessment of environmental effects for a new bridge, public consultation and consenting, and land purchase.

14. Would a third bridge qualify for a government subsidy?

At the moment, no. Based on current guidelines from the NZ Transport Agency, the project would not qualify for a government subsidy. 

15. How would a third bridge be paid for?

A bridge, like any roading project, would be paid for by ratepayers across the whole district.

In the future, we would hope a third bridge would also attract a government subsidy. Currently, this would not be the case as the project does not meet NZTA's guidelines.

Without a government subsidy, the $65 million cost of constructing the bridge would see an estimated 11% increase in rates. For a Waipā ratepayer with a rates bill of $2,500 per year, that increase would mean an extra $275 charged to their annual rates, in place for the following 29 years (as the project would be loan-funded over 30 years).

16. Would the third bridge include a cycle path/walkway?

Yes. A future bridge would likely have paths on both sides for pedestrian/cyclist access.

17. When will a decision be made?

Planning for a third bridge will be impacted by the outcome of further investigation into the resilience of the Victoria Street bridge to estimate its long-term maintenance costs. This study will be done by early 2019. Council will likely review decisions during public consultation for the next 10-Year Plan in 2021.

18. Can Council do more to stop trucks going over the high-level bridge?

Council is already doing several things on this front, as well as the signage currently in place. We are working with GPS companies to steer visitors unfamiliar with the restrictions toward the Shakespeare Street bridge instead.  We're also investigating CCTV cameras and electronic signs to provide even more warning to large vehicles that they cannot cross the bridge.

19. Are there plans to close the Victoria Street bridge for maintenance? 

No. As of May 2018, there is no significant maintenance work planned in the near future. The bridge will be repainted in the next five years, but this is not expected to affect normal operation, as it can be done from below the bridge.

20. Are there plans to close the Shakespeare St bridge for maintenance?

No. Council is looking at a water main replacement beneath the bridge in the future, but this isn't likely to cause too much disruption to the road.

21. How does Cambridge compare to other towns with bridges?

Compared to some other centres, Cambridge's population is reasonably well served with bridges.

For example, Hamilton has six bridges crossing the Waikato River for a population of 165,400 (or one bridge per 27,000 people). Cambridge already has two bridges for around 20,000 people.

Page reviewed: 17 May 2018 10:41am