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Waterview Connection: construction gathers pace

Last week there was a fairly detailed article in the NZ Herald discussing progress on construction of the Waterview Connection project. Some key things pointed out in the article relate to the fairly substantial progress made on the project in the last few months:

Diggers, drilling rigs and dump trucks from a Fletcher Construction-led alliance of Transport Agency contractors have transformed much of Alan Wood Reserve in Owairaka since January last year into a pitted brown moonscape, alleviated for now only by newly-planted native shrubs on the banks of a realigned section of Oakley Creek, and the first of two football pitches to be re-located behind security fences off Valonia St.

The site will host an extension of the Southwestern Motorway for more than 2km above ground from a new bridge already built at Maioro St in New Windsor and under another quickly taking shape on Richardson Rd, before disappearing into a pair of tunnels which will run 2.4km to Waterview from what will be left of the reserve.

Although work was slower to start at the Waterview end of the project, that has recently been levelled with the demolition or removal of about 90 mainly state houses to make way for traffic to resurface before rising on curving ramps to a multi-layered interchange with the Northwestern Motorway.

The demolitions and re-housing of residents have allowed Waterview Reserve to be moved west to make way for a slew of cranes. They are this month starting to construct a giant motorway trench by ramming concrete slurry into the ground to form the walls before earth is scooped out between them, behind 3.5m noise barriers on the project’s border along Great North Rd with Waterview Primary School.

It seems like the sheer scale of the works, although well understood by the local community through the consenting process, has still come as something of a shock in reality. The scale seems to have surprised Russell Brown from Public Address (a fellow Pt Chev resident) as well:

Through all the furore about how and where the western ring route would be completed and what would run under and over the ground, hardly anyone really understood how bloody big this thing is going to be. It’s now becoming apparent.

I’ve gained some sort of insight in recent weeks by cycling around the north and south ends of of the planned 2.8km tunnel. Even the preparatory works are vast. And the feature pic on this Waterview Connection fan page (shouldn’t it have an anthropomorphised personal Twitter account too?) made me do a double-take.

A couple of Russell’s photo’s really highlights the change in local landscape that has already resulted from the construction activity. First the southern end around Maioro Street (click for larger):southend

And the northern end near the existing Waterview interchange alongside Great North Road:northend2

Following construction of the project is going to be an interesting process as while there will be a lot of visible change at each end initially (as shown in the photos above) and change continuing at the northern end while all the ramps for the Waterview interchange are constructed, most of the activity will be occurring underground so I’m guessing that for a lot of the time it’ll probably seem like hardly anything is actually taking place.

Final completion is not expected until 2017 and once this project is built it will be very interesting to see what impacts it has on traffic volumes around Auckland – with State Highway 1 finally having a proper bypass and presumably a lot of traffic no longer needing to use current arterial road routes to make the connections that the Waterview tunnel will provide. Construction of the final piece in Auckland’s motorway system jigsaw puzzle is now most definitely underway.

32 comments to Waterview Connection: construction gathers pace

  • Publius

    Can’t be finished soon enough.
    As the population gets bigger, the motorway construction projects to alleviate congestion are getting bigger too. I wonder if an economist can prove if there is a reverse “economies of scale” here.

  • Nick R

    I can’t wait for this to be finished. They we can finally say the motorway network is finished, and move on to better things.

    • Patrick

      Is one of those better things the CRL

      • Sure, I think thinkgs like the CRL and a Northwest Busway should start to get the big capex funding, but not just that. Like there are a pile of smaller arterial improvements, intersection changes, local road bridges, walking paths and cycleways and the like that would do wonders, and are perhaps getting ignored in the quest to “complete the motorway network”.

        I can’t recall anyone ever saying what the completed motorway network would look like, yet they all seem very focussed on achieving that goal. Really they just mean “keep building more and more motorways”.

        • obi

          Nick… Could you give an example of what you mean by “local road bridge”? I’m trying to think of examples where this could be done in Auckland which wouldn’t end up turning a quiet cul de sac in to a busy through road.

          • Of the top of my head:
            Whau River
            Hope Farm Ave
            Royal Rd to Tawa Rd
            Beach Haven to Upper Harbour Dr
            Gossamer Dr to Highbrook
            Otara Rd to Highbrook
            Closing Kyle Rd (road not a bridge)
            Linking Conifer Grove to Coxhead Rd (road not a bridge)

            Yes, those would naturally increase traffic on some streets, but also decrease traffic on others and by getting rid of long circuitous detours would have a net reduction overall.
            Plus it would be nothing compared to traffic impacts of new motorway on ramps, take a look at what has happened to Maioro St, or Esmonde Rd, or Tristram Ave, or.. etc.

          • obi

            Thanks Nick. Some of your suggestions turn isolated peninsulas in to well connected suburbs, which must be a good thing.

            Something that occurred to me while I was checking out your suggested locations in Google Earth… Overhead power lines are really ugly and either blight the houses under them, or require a waste strip of land under the lines and still blight the houses nearby. I’d like to see the Council and the electricity industry (Transpower?) get together and have a crack at undergrounding all high voltage power lines in urban Auckland. I’d be happy to see electricity prices rise to pay for this. It isn’t a transport project, obviously. But presumably you could include underground cableways at the same time you were building transport projects.

          • That’s exactly what they did with the Northern Busway, built it with conduit in place to take high voltage cables which are being installed currently. No doubt any harbour crossing would have provision for water and electricity pipes.

            I’ve heard about proposals to underground the lines, but it is very expensive and has much higher operating costs due to restricted maintenance access. I’d imagine you might not be able to build directly above the cables still unless they were in a deep bore. One thing that might work is to sell off the big chunks of land and use the narrow corridors for “ribbon parks” with cycleways and walking access along the top. I’ve always looked at the corridor that runs from Pakuranga to the Penrose substation with covetous eyes.

          • jonno1

            It’s certainly possible to underground Transpower’s lines obi, but usually not financially viable unless combined with major roadworks as you suggest, or there’s some other driver/funder. One example: the 220kV cables Penrose to Albany via the Vector tunnel, Fanshawe St, Harbour bridge and Northern busway. The busway ducts were laid during its construction. Another one: the 110kV cables through Westgate (the existing site plus the proposed extension on the northern side of Hobsonville Rd). Pretty ugly terminal poles though! And of course Vector has undergrounded most of the arterial routes in the old AEPB area. All their new reticulation is underground, and I think they continue to fund some undergrounding projects through an overhead improvement programme.

          • obi

            Jonno/Nick… What do these cable ducts under the busway look like? I’d imagine that a concrete mini-tunnel just big enough for a person to walk through would allow you to stack a variety of cables and pipes along the walls and still ensure maintenance access.

            I like the idea of ribbon parks.

          • jonno1

            Obi, they’re individual ducts, not a tunnel, about 250mm diameter each, two sets of three in trefoil formation. The single-core cables are simply pulled through in drum lengths (not sure of the drum length, or maybe they will be pre-jointed as with a submarine cable, but I could find out). There may be some photos of the Fanshawe St duct-laying on the web, they were installed about five years ago I think. The Vector tunnel is more as you describe, about 4m in diameter, maybe more, with cable brackets either side and a cool train down the middle. There are also some enormous caverns at the junction points (eg side tunnel to Liverpool St).

          • jonno1

            Here’s a useful link: https://www.transpower.co.nz/sites/default/files/publications/resources/albany-hobson-street.pdf

            If you scroll down a bit there’s a photo of the ducts. I see the drum lengths are up to 800m, so decent gaps between jointing pits. Now I think about it, I’ve recently seen partial closures on the Northern busway that may be for cable jointing.

          • obi

            That was an interesting link, thanks Jonno. I’d done a search on the Vector tunnel and found it was bored, and quite deep in places. I’d assumed that if you were going to establish a similar cable right-of-way under something like a busway then you could have prefabricated sections of man-sized concrete tunnel and dropped them in place. Surely that can’t be much more expensive than pre-fabricated concrete water pipe?

            Anyway… I think it is great that Transpower are taking the electricity grid seriously. They’re building new substations, adding redundancy (the North Shore and Northland were supplied by a single high voltage link!!!), and undergrounding ugly pylons. They’re adding capacity for a growing city. It is also nice to see that we’re developing infrastructure in a joined-up manner, with the same corridors supporting motorway, busways, and the electricity grid.

          • jonno1

            Transpower has come a long way in the last few years Obi. Previously there was a reluctance to maintain assets, let alone extend them. Of course, some projects have had their opponents, eg the Waikato 400kV line, but that’s all done now. Interestingly, where Transpower has re-sold some of the land it acquired (at market prices on both occasions), in some cases it has made a profit despite the added encumbrance. Others on this blog have pointed out that the same situation should arise for land acquired for the CRL, and they’re probably correct.

  • Duncan

    This should eliminate a lot of the congestion in the Central Auckland Motorway Junctions plus theoretically should enable the NW Motorway to run freely especially with the added improvements at Te Atatu.
    This should be the last piece in the motorway jigsaw for the foreseeable future in Auckland (not greater Auckland).
    In the photos I couldn’t believe how quick everything was gone one week we played a game of football at Waterview reserve and within a month it looks like it does now.

  • Ian

    Where will all the earth removed to form the tunnels go? This may be on the Waterview fanboi page but as roading projects, especially those in other parts of the country, mostly bore me to tears I didn’t give it more than a cursory glance.

  • Kefs

    I live in Avondale and drive down Hendon Ave and Great North Rd through Waterview regularly and it still saddens me to see these neighbourhoods ripped up to ease congestion and get everyone to where they need to be 5 minutes faster. I’m not actually anti the project, but when you live in the area it’s hard not to feel for the community affected, especially as it’s a low income area. I’d like to see them try this through Remuera – they get upset by bus lanes!

    • SteveC

      it’s a well known truism in engineering circles that it’s relatively easy to obtain property in more expensive suburbs than in the less expensive, in the first, it’s just a question of money, in the second there’s a lot more emotional attachment to the “family home” especially if there’s been a lot of hard graft that’s gone into the purchase, maintenance and expansion of the place

      that said, are Housing NZ doing anything to replace to up to 90 state houses or equivalent rental stock in the area? it seems like a significant loss

      • starnius

        Never heard that “truism”, and have worked in NZ engineering for almost a decade. Experience from historical projects shows anecdotally that it certainly isn’t the case for how hard it becomes to push through an unpopular project. If the locals hate it, well-heeled and well-connected people (i.e. the rich) have it much easier to raise a stink, and create legal hurdles.

        • Bill McKay

          Yes, John Banks’ eastern motorway proposal was seen off by the hoi oligoi of the Eastern Bays, in much the same way the well heeled have dealt to heritage zones and general tree protection: good enough for everyone else but not in their front yards.

        • David O

          This seems a lot more likely to be true than SteveC’s ‘truism’. You’ll never get past the objections of the well-heeled and well-connected, while the less well off are more likely to experience a Hitchhikers’ Guide moment.

      • Bill McKay

        I thought motorways followed the path of least political resistance – which is why historically they have liked mangroves, graveyards and low decile communities.

        Yes Housing NZ have an interest in redeveloping two areas of Waterview (and to a higher intensity and standard we are told) but that may have to wait until we have a government interested in building houses. The local school is being rebuilt as part of the mitigation but the roll has taken a hit with the loss of all those houses.

    • Greg N

      Kefs,
      I lived in Harlestone Road which runs off Hendon many years ago, and the “blight” of a motorway designation made the place pretty ugly then with no attempts to make the area nicer as it was all going to be ripper up one day.

      So, while the current plans have an impact, 50+ years of prior existing motorway corridor designation had have a worse impact on the community overall.

      So in some ways, getting the damn thing built will allow the community the ability to move on not just be stuck in some 60′s time warp.

  • Nicholas O'Kane

    Simple question: how long will the tunnel be, and will it exceed the 1970m Lyttelton road tunnel to become the longest road tunnel in New Zealand?

  • Luke C

    Note with google maps new 45 degree imagery in the Auckland (roughly old auckland City) area the start of construction for Waterview can clearly be seen. There is excavation at the southern end (maybe portal) and a heavy hall road leading to Richardson Road. Also fascinating to see progress on Panmure Bridge, completed Vic Park tunnel, and electrification mast extending inwards as far as far as Mt Albert. Must put imagery only 6 months old or so.

    • starnius

      The tunnel portal is going to be more towards the northern side, closer to Hendon Ave – the excavation that can be seen in the new aerials at the western end of the haul road seems to be the new streambed for the relocted Oakley Creek. They had to reroute that first before they could start digging the tunnel trench and portal area.

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