The Auckland Harbour Bridge
Photographer: Phil Walter/Getty Images
Commuters in New Zealand’s largest city are experiencing major delays getting to work after a freak accident on Auckland Harbour Bridge caused structural damage that could take weeks to repair.
Travel times into Auckland from the city’s northern suburbs tripled on Monday morning, local media reported, with just four of the bridge’s eight lanes open. The bridge was damaged on Friday when a sudden, strong wind gust blew a truck carrying a shipping container into a load-bearing strut. Another truck traveling in the opposite direction toppled over and became stuck.
“A temporary fix to re-open lanes may be possible in a few days but a permanent repair is weeks away,” the New Zealand Transport Agency said in a statement. “Heavy congestion and delays are expected on both sides of the bridge as well as other state highways and local roads. We ask people to consider working from home if possible.”
On an average weekday, more than 170,000 vehicles cross the bridge, which spans the Waitemata Harbour to link highly populated North Shore suburbs with Auckland’s central business district. The traffic chaos is another blow for the city after a coronavirus outbreak forced it into a three-week lockdown last month. Ongoing restrictions on public gatherings are due to be reassessed today.
Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said traffic disruption is expected for up to five weeks, but it was difficult to prevent damage caused by “a freak wind gust” that the meteorological service estimates exceeded 127 kilometers (79 miles) an hour.
“I don’t think you can build around that,” Goff told Radio New Zealand. “The ultimate answer is probably that the next harbor crossing is likely to be a tunnel, not a bridge.”
Auckland’s troubles come ahead of a general election on Oct. 17 in which both main parties are pledging massive infrastructure programs to help pull the economy out of recession. Trailing Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern’s Labour Party in opinion polls, the main opposition National Party is promising to build a 5-kilometer tunnel under Waitemata Harbour to establish a second crossing.
Before it’s here, it’s on the Terminal.