The project was primarily needed to relieve traffic congestion on the state highway system.
The construction of a two-lane bridge would considerably improve travel times by removing the traffic bottleneck at the one-lane bridge.
The new two-lane bridge will provide the following benefits:
- improved access to the Coromandel Peninsula for overseas and local visitors, with benefits to local tourism
- faster travel times for police, ambulance and the fire service to emergency scenes and Thames Hospital
- faster travel times and fuel savings for transport and fleet operators
- improved access to and from business premises in the Kopu industrial area
- faster travel times and fuel savings for local residents and holiday travellers
- improved safety in earthquakes
- access for pedestrians and improved safety for cyclists
- access for boat traffic that will no longer hold up road traffic.
When the new two-lane Kopu Bridge opens, it will address the current problem of traffic queues at the existing one-lane bridge. However, the wider highway network on the Coromandel Peninsula may still experience some traffic congestion during holiday traffic peaks, when the normal traffic volume more than doubles.
The two nearest junctions to the bridge are the SH25/26 and SH26/25A intersections immediately to the east. These provide access to the Thames Coast Road (SH25) up the western side of the peninsula to Coromandel township, and the Kopu-Hikuai route (SH25A) over the Coromandel Range to eastern beaches such as Whangamata and Whitianga. Both these routes have winding and steep sections.
The Kopu Bridge project included construction of a two-lane roundabout at a new SH25/26 intersection. This roundabout maximises traffic capacity, improves safety and smooths traffic flows.
NZ Transport Agency is also investigating what improvements can be made to increase traffic capacity at the next junction on the network – the SH26/25A intersection (Kopu to Hikuai).
But even with these anticipated improvements, holiday travellers may still experience some congestion at various points on their journey.
The highway on either side of the bridge is two lanes, so adding extra lanes to the bridge would not benefit road users. The existing and predicted traffic volumes on State Highway 25 don’t require four lanes.
The old bridge was constructed in 1927–28. It has a number of significant limitations:
- The edge barriers are timber post and wire fencing, whereas modern standards require a concrete barrier to minimise potential for vehicles to crash off the bridge.
- It is very expensive to maintain, costing more than $100,000 each year.
- There are no pedestrian facilities.
- Provision for cyclists is very poor.
- The seismic strength of the foundations does not meet new bridge earthquake standards.
- The bridge has to be closed to all traffic when boats cross underneath and need the swing span opened.
It is possible but very expensive and not good value for money. The option of widening the existing bridge was considered during the investigation stage of the project. It required full replacement of the existing foundations and adding on approximately 8 metres of bridge width. (The existing bridge is only 4 metres wide.) The review indicated that this option would cost more than a new bridge.
Additionally, the Historic Places Trust (now Heritage New Zealand) was concerned that the necessary modifications to the current structure would significantly alter the historic character of the existing bridge.
Yes. A new shared-use cycleway/footpath will be built on the north side of the bridge. It will connect to the shoulder of the state highway on the west approach and to a new footpath on the east approach. Pedestrians and cyclists will be separated from traffic by a concrete barrier.
The cycleway/footpath also links via a road underpass with the route for the proposed Thames–Paeroa link of the Hauraki Rail Trail.
The old, one-way Kopu Bridge, near Thames, is now no longer required as part of the state highway and local road transport network.
Find out more about the future of the Old Kopu Bridge