Radio New Zealand
Auckland, Sunday, July 2, 2017
After months of delays, Auckland’s $1.4 billion Waterview Tunnel is now open to traffic.
The first vehicle travelled through the tunnel at 12.47 am today.
CCTV footage showed the first cars entering the northbound tunnel, travelling from Owairaka to Waterview, accompanied by three New Zealand Police vehicles.
The Transport Agency had refused to say exactly when the tunnel would be opening to avoid long queues as motorists tried to see the new tunnel first-hand.
It said motorists should avoid rushing to drive through the tunnel in the first few days after opening to help ease congestion.
Brett Gliddon from the agency said some motorists could not get enough of it.
He said there was a “bit of sightseeing going on” with motorists going through the tunnel one way and then turning around and coming back the other.
Traffic was starting to build but everything was working as normal, Mr Gliddon said.
And most motorists were following rules and not changing lanes inside the tunnel, he said.
Most significant change
Transport Minister Simon Bridges said the tunnel was the most significant change in Auckland’s transport system since the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1959.
The tunnel, between Point Chevalier and Mount Roskill, was due to be completed in April but that was pushed back after a sprinkler system was found to be faulty.
Open days this month attracted tens of thousands of walkers and cyclists.
“The Waterview Tunnel will transform the way people and freight move around the city, providing more options and a more efficient, resilient and reliable transport system.
“The $1.4 billion Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s biggest and most complex roading project ever with the twin tunnels completing a key link in the Western Ring Route. This has been a priority project for the Government because of the significant contribution it will make to New Zealand’s economic growth and prosperity,” Mr Bridges said.
Wider economic benefits
He said that wider economic benefits were estimated to be worth $430 million, through improved productivity and reduced travel time, and also include the creation of more than 18,000 jobs during the construction of the tunnel.
“Investing in Auckland’s motorway system in this way will reduce the cost of doing business throughout the country and plays a strong role in supporting Auckland’s growing population,” Mr Bridges says.
In mid-July, another two community amenities will open as part of the project.
Auckland’s cycling and walking network will expand further with the opening of the Southwestern Shared Path alongside the motorway between the southern end of the tunnel and the Maioro Street interchange.
The striking Te Whitinga (Hendon footbridge) spanning the motorway will also open to connect the suburbs of New Windsor and Owairaka.
The tunnel connecting the southwestern and northwestern motorways
Photo by NZTA (sourced through Radio New Zealand)