Waterview Connection September and October Time-lapse

Here are the September and October time-lapse videos from the Waterview Connection project.

And the October one showing the TBM being turned around.

Waterview Breakthrough

On Monday Alice the Tunnel Boring Machine broke through at Waterview after tunnelling for the last 10 months.

Waterview TBM Breakthrough

And here’s a video of it happening.

One of the things that is really impressive is just how accurate the machine is with it being within 10mm of where they planned for it to exit. All up almost 400,000m³ of spoil was removed from the 2.4km tunnel and just over 12,000 concrete tunnel lining segments have been installed.

Here’s the press release that goes with it which provides a lot more information

The first of the twin road tunnels that will connect Auckland’s Southwestern and Northwestern motorways as part of the NZ Transport Agency’s Waterview Connection project has been built.
Alice, the tunnel boring machine, broke into daylight this afternoon, at the end of her 10-month 2.4km underground journey from Owairaka to Waterview.

The tunnel she has built is the tenth largest diameter tunnel in the world and the longest road tunnel in New Zealand. Once opened in early 2017, it will carry three lanes of southbound traffic up to 40 metres below Avondale and Waterview in west Auckland.

The NZ Transport Agency’s Highways Manager for Auckland, Brett Gliddon, says the tunnel’s completion is a significant milestone for the $1.4bn project to build the new 5km, six-lane motorway link from the Great North Road interchange at Waterview to Maioro Street in Mt Roskill and complete the long awaited Western Ring Route.

“This is a fantastic achievement. Our construction partners on the Well-Connected Alliance completed the breakthrough safely and ahead of schedule,” Mr Gliddon says.

“It is a huge engineering feat for New Zealand, one that is attracting worldwide attention. It demonstrates that with local and international experience and expertise, we can deliver infrastructure to equal the best in the world.”

Mr Gliddon says Alice will now be turned around to bore the northbound tunnel.
“While it is not unusual internationally to turn a tunnel boring machine, what is extraordinary about this turn is the sheer size of the machine and the constricted space in which the manoeuvre will take place.”

At 90m long and weighing 3,100 tonnes, Alice is big. The cutting head and its three trailing gantries will be disconnected and each piece taken one at a time from the completed tunnel and turned.

Only when all of Alice’s parts are in place and reconnected – in early 2015 – will tunnelling resume to construct the second tunnel.

The conveyor system that removes excavated material and other services required for the machine’s operation will also be turned and will follow Alice as she journeys south. By the completion of the second tunnel, they will extend the length of both tunnels – nearly 5km.
A fourth gantry, which operates independently of Alice to install a culvert on the floor of the tunnel, will be the last to be turned. This culvert will carry the services needed for operation of the tunnels once they have been completed.

The machine’s drive south from Waterview to Owairaka is expected to be completed in about October next year. Approximately a year of work will then remain to complete the mechanical and electrical fit-out of the tunnels, including completing ventilation buildings at both ends and constructing 16 cross passages to connect the tunnels.

The entire project – which also involves building the surface connections to the existing motorways, 9km of new cycleway, new community amenities such as walkways, playgrounds and skateparks, and planting approximately 150,000 trees and shrubs – is due to be completed in early 2017.

The Waterview Connection is one of five projects to complete the Western Ring Route as an alternative motorway to SH1 through central Auckland and across the Auckland Harbour Bridge. It is prioritised by the Government as one of its Roads of National Significance because of the contribution it will make to New Zealand’s prosperity by underpinning economic growth and sustainable development for Auckland and its regional neighbours.

The project is being delivered by the Well-Connected Alliance which includes the Transport Agency, Fletcher Construction, McConnell Dowell, Parsons Brinckerhoff, Beca Infrastructure, Tonkin & Taylor and Japanese construction company Obayashi Corporation. Sub-alliance partners are Auckland-based Wilson Tunnelling and Spanish tunnel controls specialists SICE.

As well as designing and building the Waterview Connection, the alliance will operate and maintain the 5km motorway for 10 years from its completion.

Also if you’re interested in how the TBM will be turned around, this gives some more info. Click to enlarge (2.8MB)

Poster Waterview TBM Turnaround

Waterview Connection July Time Lapse

The latest time lapse from the Waterview Connection project

The TBM is getting very close to the end of the first tunnel with it less than 300m to go.

Waterview Connection video and images

The latest video from the team digging the tunnels at Waterview, this time with the main focus on the spoil from the tunnel which is sent to help fill up the old Wiri quarry.

I guess there’s probably not a great deal of point in showing a time-lapse from inside the tunnel anymore seeing as they’ve already done that a few times and it would all look the same now. As a reminder this is what the inside of the tunnel looks like and the men walking though it help to give a sense of the size of it.

Waterview inside tunnel

As of three weeks ago here is how far the TBM had progressed and it is expected to reach Waterview in September.

Progress Bar - July 14

And here are some photos from June which helps to highlight the immense size of the project.

At the Northern End

The ramps and pillars look small from here but from ground level are massive

With the exception of the cycleway this whole area is really a massive pedestrian dead zone

At the Southern End

The space for a Mt Roskill Spur has clearly been left under the Maioro St Interchange but hasn’t been built under Richardson Rd (but space has been left for it)

More here.

Waterview Shared Path

Auckland Transport is holding an open day to discuss their plans for a shared path between Waterview and Mt Albert which was required as part of the Board of Inquiry for the Waterview Connection project.

Auckland Transport is about to unveil plans for a new walking and cycling link between Waterview and Mt Albert.

Delivered as part of the Waterview Connection project, the shared path will add to Auckland’s growing cycling and walking network, connecting with the north-western (SH16) cycle route and existing shared paths to Onehunga and New Lynn.

Auckland Transport has investigated a range of options, talked with property owners and developed a concept design for the path. We’re now ready to show our designs to the public, so come along and give us your thoughts.

The Waterview shared path will be around 2.4km long and around 3.5 metres wide, running from Alan Wood Reserve off New North Road, following the route of Oakley Creek and connecting with Great North Road (map attached).

Two new bridges will be built along the route – one across Oakley Creek and the other over the western rail line – to connect communities to the path. There will also be easy access to the path at various points along the route, such as Phyllis Reserve and the Unitec campus.

Details on the Waterview shared path will be revealed at two public open days – the first on Wednesday 23 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Metro Football Club, in Phyllis Reserve, Mt Albert; and the second on Thursday 24 July, 3pm to 7pm, at Avondale Baptist Church, 1288 New North Road, Avondale. The project team will be on hand to answer questions.

AT’s Community Transport manager Matthew Rednall says the shared path will be great for the local community.

“Not only will it mean safe traffic-free links and improved access to local schools, colleges and other community facilities, it’ll be a great place to get some exercise,” he says.

“The path will be well lit and have a low gradient to make it safe and easy to use.”

Construction is expected to begin in late 2016 and take around 12 months to complete.

This is the route the path will take

Waterview Cycleway Route

I’m please to see this being progressed however there are already a number of questions in my head about this project.

  • Why is it only starting construction in late 2016. This seems especially odd considering how fast the NZTA seems to be moving on the Glen Innes to Tamaki Dr Cycleway which has construction starting in a few months.
  • The route seems more about recreation than transport with the indirect route it takes and sharp slow speed turns – AT have said that this is to provide links to the community, not build through the sports grounds and that closer to the creek isn’t suitable for building.
  • Will AT be installing lights on the intersection of Soljak Pl/New North Rd/Bollard Ave? New North Rd is a high volume four lane arterial road that without any kind of crossing is going to be difficult to cross.
  • We’ve started seeing a lot of design being incorporated in pedestrian/cycle bridges in recent years, the concept for the bridge across the Oakley Creek that AT have on their website seems to shun that completely.

Waterview Cycleway - Alford Bridge artist concept

Waterview Connection April Timelapse

The latest timelapse video from the Waterview connection project.

Waterview Connection March Timelapse

The latest timelapse video for the Waterview Connection. Regardless of your views on the motorway, it’s a bloody impressive piece of kit boring out the tunnels.

Just another $500 million

The herald this week ran a large piece on the projects under construction as part of the Western Ring Route (WRR) including aerial photos of the progress. The projects covered were:

  • The Waterview Connection breaking it down by:
    • The Southern end
    • The Northern end
    • The Waterview interchange
  • The raising and widening of the Northwestern Motorway Causeway
  • The Te Atatu Interchange
  • The St Lukes Interchange
  • The Lincoln Rd Interchange

But the thing that got me about the article was this part

The 4.8km link between the Southwestern and Northwestern Motorways will fill the last-but-one gap in the 48km Western Ring Route. It will bypass the city to the west and link Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and North Shore.

All that will be left to complete, by about 2019, will be a $500 million-plus motorway-to-motorway interchange at the northern end of the route.

It’s made to sound like it’s some sort of minor completion task but in reality at $500 million it would be the second most expensive road project in Auckland after the Waterview tunnels. What’s more it’s all just to satisfy some transport planners desire to make a map look prettier.

SH18-SH1 map gap

The project is more than twice the cost of a similar junction at Manukau built just a few years ago. It’s even almost enough to get a fully offline busway all the way to Silverdale – not that it’s needed that far yet (but NEX services to Silverdale are). It will be eclipsed in price any time soon by $800 million Puhoi to Warkworth motorway (if it goes ahead). 

Further it’s also technically incorrect to say that’s the final project for the Western Ring Route as there is still an estimated $100 million upgrade of the Royal Rd interchange (and associated widening either side of it) that will be left to do. Also needing to be included are the costs of widening the Northern and Southern motorways either side of the western ring route which the NZTA say are needed to handle the traffic from the WRR.

All up over the span of the roughly 13 years that we will have actually been building it, the Western Ring Route will costing us almost $4 billion. That’s on top of other major motorway projects that have been/are going on like the Victoria Park Tunnel, Newmarket Viaduct replacement and the myriad of projects the government announced last year they would fast track. Here’s a breakdown of the costs of the various WRR Projects

WRR Costs

It’s the ability to really break some of these mega projects down into small chunks that I think has been instrumental in Auckland forging ahead with so many motorway projects ahead of other transport investments. Projects like the CRL have suffered because they require the entire thing to built before they become usable and the price tag then looks scary. However spreading out the cost of the CRL over the years it will take to build shows that annually it’s about the same as what we’ve been pouring into these motorway projects. (note: cost of CRL in today’s dollars is ~$1.8 billion other costs often quoted include extra trains for an inefficient operating pattern and future inflation).

All of this makes me wonder how different the public would have perceived these projects if upfront they had been told it would have cost almost $4 billion to build. Would public sentiment about what transport projects we should build be different if we could have had a more realistic discussion about how much things cost.

Waterview Tunnel Photos

Reader and photographer Jeff Smith has been working with the Well Connected Alliance – the consortium building the Waterview Tunnels to document the project. He has just released these photos and more of some of the progress to date. The tunnel is now about 150m in length

Waterview tunnel 1

Spoil being loaded onto the conveyor.

Waterview tunnel spoil

Tunnel segment about to be lifted into place

Waterview tunnel segments

A section of the TBM that looks a bit like a spaceship from a sci-fi film.

Waterview tunnel spaceship

Thanks to Jeff for letting me run with the photos and there are a heap more on his site. If you’re interested in the project at all then it’s definitely worth a look. http://albums.jeffsmithphotography.co.nz/life-underground

Hendon Ave Bridge

I love the amount of effort the NZTA have put into the design of pedestrian and cycling bridges over motorways in the last few years. The renders below are of what the Hendon Ave bridge is expected to look like.

Hendon Ave Bridge

And here’s another picture of it.

Hendon Ave Bridge 2

The bridge is currently under construction.