Waterview Mitigation Needed

We’re now only months away from the opening of New Zealand’s biggest transport project to date, the Waterview tunnels – likely to be sometime between January and March. Waterview should have represented the last major new urban highway connection in Auckland but of course the NZTA and others have since started pushing other projects such as the East-West Link and an Additional Waitemata Harbour crossing.

While there are some positive things to the project, we’ve been concerned for some time about the impact the project will have across a number of areas, in particular the ongoing operational cost of the infrastructure and the traffic impacts. The concern for the latter issue was further strengthened by comments in the April Auckland Transport board report talking about how an Operational Risk Assessment had looked at expected traffic demand and that some additional physical mitigation works were needed and that workshops were taking place between AT and the NZTA. So I decided to OIA the information.

First up the issue of operational costs. Here’s what the NZTA said in response.

The latest cost estimate for Waterview Tunnels to maintain and operate on an annual basis is approximately $16 million.

To put that $16 million in perspective, in the 2014/15 financial year, the last for which data is currently available, the NZTA spent $108 million to operate, maintain and renwe the entire State Highway network in Auckland (up from about $90 million in the few years prior to that). That means the new Waterview Tunnels add almost 15% to the annual state highway operational bill in Auckland. Diving a bit deeper, the Auckland State Highway network is 1048km in length (by lane km). Waterview adds about 24km to that total, an increase of just over 2%. I guess what this highlights is that tunnels are really expensive, not only to build but also to operate.

OPEX spending on Auckland State Highways 2002-2015

On to the Operational Risk Analysis

We’ve long noted that one of the outcomes of Waterview is that it is likely to create a lot more pressure on the motorway network, especially east of Waterview as people from the southern isthmus use the new connection to drive towards the city or North Shore. When combined with all of the existing and new traffic from the west it’s likely to cause a lot of issues. We’ve also heard suggestions that for safety purposes the NZTA don’t want cars stopping in the tunnels because as I understand it, the ventilation system is designed based on moving vehicles to help push air through the tunnels so it can exhaust the fumes – happy to be corrected on this though.

Regardless it looks like we were right to be concerned and the NZTA are now pushing through a number of mitigation measures to state highways and local roads in a bid to boost vehicle capacity, possibly at the expense of PT and cycle infrastructure and potentially including the Northwest busway. What’s also not clear is why all of these mitigation measures wasn’t part of the initial assessment for project to begin with.

The Operational Risk Analysis is essentially a heap of new traffic modelling to try and determine if and where any issues might arise within the first six months and to test potential options to mitigate those issues. It’s the result of NZTA wanting to avoid the operational and reputational risk from something like a repeat of back in 2010 when they opened the SH20 to SH1 link at Manukau and finding it caused a heap of issues that they’re only now working to fix.

The modelling, which makes up the bulk of the report, highlights the areas of concern and is also assessed against three groups of mitigation measures – a summary of these mitigation groups are shown below.

Waterview Operational Risk Assessment Mitigation Groups

Ultimately the report recommends focusing on the Group 2 mitigations. These are:

It is strongly recommended that as many of the individual mitigations from Group 2 as possible be implemented prior to the opening of the WVT to manage the risks associated with tunnel operations and the operational and associated reputational risk that accompanies such a significant change to the configuration of the network.

Specific actions are recommended as follows:

  • Urgently engage with Auckland Transport to investigate if minor arterial corridor mitigations could provide a small increase in off ramp discharge capacity at the following three locations:
    • Maioro Street northbound off ramp.
    • Te Atatu Road westbound off ramp.
    • Royal Road westbound off ramp.
  • Design an additional lane at the following locations (using existing hard shoulders where feasible) to enable implementation prior to WVT opening:
    • SH20 southbound from Maioro Street on ramp to Hillsborough Rd on ramp.
    • SH20 northbound from Orpheus Drive on ramp to Queenstown Rd off ramp.
    • SH20 northbound auxiliary lane on approach to Maioro Street off ramp.
    • SH16 eastbound to from WVT to Western Springs off ramp and from Western Springs on ramp to tie-in to the existing five lane section near the Bond Street Bridge.
  • Carry out further assessment on the following:
    • Potential for operating some or all of the additional lanes recommended above as dynamic part-time (hard shoulder running) lanes.
    • Potential three laning between Lincoln Road and Royal Road (both directions).
    • Potential northbound auxiliary lanes on SH20 from Puhinui Rd on ramp to Massey off ramp and from Massey on ramp to SH20A off ramp.
    • Minor layout changes at CMJ:
  • Ramp signaling the SH16 eastbound to SH1 northbound and Port to SH1 northbound links separately.
  • Re-configuring the SH16 eastbound approach to CMJ to allow two lanes for AM peak queuing for the SH1 southbound link (merging to one lane before joining SH1) at the expense of one of the lanes leading to the port.

A second part of this assessment has still to be completed. This will relate to assessment of abnormal operations, mainly incidents. This assessment will include assessment of operating additional lanes as dynamic part-time running lanes (Hard Shoulder Running) to assist in incident management.

This is also shown in the diagram below

Waterview Operational Risk Assessment Mitigation Map

Below is an example of one of the modelling outputs It is a heatmap showing where, when the severity of congestion based on a scenario to a specific level of extra demand. As you can see the modelling suggests significant improvements to the motorway.

Waterview Operational Risk Assessment Heat Map example

There is no mention of just how much this mitigation will cost although the NZTA claim it will achieve $15 million in travel time savings per year.

The OIA also includes the minutes from a couple of workshops and they too contain some interesting information. I’ve just extracted a couple of items from each paper which are shown with the bullet points. The names/initials of the participants except for those from the NZTA have been removed so I’ve just used XX as a replacement.

Workshop 1

There’s a concern that because the NZTA are focusing on pumping as many cars off the motorways as possible it might now affect bus routes.

  • XX explained there would be more bus routes and increased frequency especially around Te Atatu and Lincoln Road. He expressed concern about the future reliability of these new services in light of the risk of congestion following the opening Waterview Connection

It sounds like AT want bus lanes or other layout changes to Blockhouse Bay Rd but that possibly the NZTA want it kept as is just in case something goes wrong with the tunnels.

  • XX mentioned that AT would be protecting Nelson Street capacity during peak times (CBD tactical team to maintain off-ramp capacity) from the motorway and with respect to planned work on the AT network. AT want to do any major maintenance work either before tunnel opening e.g. City bound buses lanes proposed for Blockhouse Bay Road.
  • XX mentioned that Blockhouse Bay Road would be a planned and incident diversion route for Waterview Tunnel closures and that if AT propose to reassign capacity, freed up by Waterview Connection, then these intentions of use of Blockhouse Bay Road could be in direct conflict with each other.


Workshop 2

Given this was in March of this year, how on earth were the NZTA not aware AT were looking at busway options for SH16?

  • XX talked about the need to consider the northwest busway with respect to the mitigation projects. XX mentioned there were some ‘medium term’ busway proposals to consider which include shoulder bus provision and highlighted a possible conflict.
  • XX NZTA now aware of a possible busway, need to know details and have a recommendation before deciding if there is a conflict. This has been passed on to the transport planning team at The Agency.

The minutes don’t say which school but given most of the focus seems to be around the Maioro St interchange, I’m guessing this refers to Wesley Intermediate. Why the school wouldn’t want kids to be safer is absurd.

  • XX said that the school did not support a mid-block crossing and preferred the provision to be provided at the intersection itself.

It seems the NZTA are planning a full interchange at Northside Dr near Westgate

  • GO, XX provided an update on Northside drive proposals, including consideration for a full diamond interchange.

So all up it seems we have the NZTA rushing to trying and add more motorway and local road capacity in a desperate bid to stop the shiny new centrepiece of their system from getting congested. What do you think of the papers?

Waterview March Update

It’s been a few months since we last posted an update on what is currently the country’s single biggest transport project. Here are some of the recent updates.

The tunnel boring machine has been dismantled and shipped back to its manufacturer. The biggest piece moved was the main drive which drove the cutter head and weighed 270 tonnes.

It went on the back of a 48 axle double-width trailer pulled by 3 tractor units with another one behind pushing to give it an extra bit of grunt.

The convoy made its way from Maioro Street off ramp, along Sandringham Road and turning on to Balmoral Road and heading through Mt Eden and Grafton to the port.

And some of the recent aerial photos of the project.

Looking south-east with the motorway carving through former park land

Waterview Aerial - 2016-02 - 2

The expansive Waterview interchange continues to grow. Those ramps to the city are likely to put even greater pressure on the motorway from Waterveiw through to the city at peak times.

Waterview Aerial - 2016-02 - 8


The Hendon Ave bridge for pedestrians and cyclists continues to be built.

Waterview Aerial - 2016-02 - 5

Eric Armishaw Reserve Boardwalk under construction

Waterview Aerial - 2016-02 - 9

All of the spoil taken out of the tunnels has gone to fill up the old Wiri Quary as shown below. It will become new industrial land. You can also see ATs train depot in the bottom left corner where they’ve even placed a logo on the roof. Not quite sure of the value of advertising to those in planes flying overhead.

Waterview Aerial - 2016-02 - 1


Lastly here are the most recent timelapse videos from the project

I’m looking forward to end of the “complete the motorways” mantra we’ve heard for so long – not that I actually believe the NZTA or road/construction lobby believe this is the motorway’s being completed.

Waterview Shared Path begins

Auckland Transport have today kicked off another large cycling project today – the Waterview Shared Path. This is a project that came about as a result of the advocacy of locals and groups like Bike Auckland during the consenting for the Waterview Connection project and the Board of Inquiry make its construction one of the requirements of the project – although not paid for as part of the motorway project.

Waterview Shared Path - Alford Bridge surface

The Alford St Bridge – Looking East

Construction is beginning on one of Auckland‘s biggest cycling and walking project’s which will improve connections for people travelling through the Auckland suburbs of Mount Albert and Waterview.

The first sod was turned today by the Hon. Paula Bennett representing the NZ Government on the 2.5km Waterview Shared Path in the grounds of Metro Football Club in Phyllis St Reserve.

It was attended by representatives from the organisations collaborating to fund and deliver the path as well as members of the local community.

The Waterview Shared Path is part of the Waterview Connection tunnel and interchange project and will join with other shared paths that are part of the Government’s Urban Cycleway Programme.

The 3.5 metre wide shared cycling and walking path follows Te Auaunga (Oakley Creek) between the Alan Wood Reserve in Mt Albert and Great North Rd in Waterview and will be a convenient way to access local parks, sports grounds, and the Unitec campus. Walkers and cyclists of all ages and abilities will easily be able to access the shared path as it includes low hill gradients to assist prams and elderly people to use it.

The scenic route travels through an area of Mahoe forest and includes three bridges. The bridge crossing Oakley Creek, connecting Great North Road and Unitec, will be 90 metres long, a similar length to Grafton Bridge in the city centre.

The Government through the NZ Transport Agency, together with Auckland Transport (AT) and Albert Eden Local Board have contributed funding for the project which will be built by the Well Connected Alliance (WCA), which is delivering the $1.4bn Waterview Connection project.

Waterview Shared Path - Alford Bridge creek

The Alford St Bridge – Looking South

Starting from the south, the path will begin at New North Rd where it connects with the shared path being build as part of the Waterview Connection project it will cross over to Soljak Pl via a new set of traffic lights that will be installed. It will then pass over the rail line on a new bridge before travelling through Harbutt and Phyllis reserves which will be connected via a 70m long boardwalk. It passes through part of the Unitec site including right through the middle of one of the carparks before getting to the 16m high and 90m long Alford St Bridge where it will connect with the shared path on Gt North Rd.

Waterview Shared Path - Route

And here’s what the bridge over the rail line will look like, it has screens to prevent things being thrown on to the rail line and wires.

Waterview Shared Path - Rail Bridge

Waterview December Update

The Waterview Connection project is currently New Zealand’s biggest transport project and the team working on it regularly put out pictures and videos of  the work they’re doing. Here are some of the latest updates.

Over the weekend the arch of the Hendon St walking and cycling bridge was installed.

Waterview Hendon Bridge- Dec 15

You can see the bridge under construction below. The approaches have been built for a while but the arch and the section that spans the motorway has had to wait till tunnelling finished so the conveyor belt could be removed.

Waterview Aerial - Nov 15 - 2

And here’s what the bridge will look like when finished.

Hendon Ave Bridge

Below is a look at the Waterview Interchange taken in November. You definitely couldn’t call it compact. The image also shows just how wide the causeway will be once finished. The completed layout will have four lanes citybound, 5 lanes westbound, bus shoulders each way and the cycleway

Waterview Aerial - Nov 15 - 1

Speaking of the cycleway the section along the causeway is now open and a considerable improvement to the conditions cyclists have endured in recent times. The remaining sections of the cycleway are due to be completed in the next few months.

While not part of the Waterview Project, also due to be completed soon is the Te Atatu interchange which will see the section of motorway from Te Atatu to Lincoln Rd finished early next year. As many of you will know there has been constant roadworks in this section since 2010 when the Lincoln Rd interchange upgrade started. The completion includes the new cycleway underpass of Te Atatu Rd (due before Christmas) and the extension of the NW cycleway to Lincoln Rd (The section from Henderson Creek to Lincoln Rd has been open for some time).

In the tunnel the work continues on digging out the cross passages

Waterview Cross Passage

And here’s one with pipes and valves for fire safety systems being installed.

Waterview Cross Passage valves

And of course now that the TBM has finished digging it is being disassembled and has been sold back to the manufacturer.

The 322 tonne cutter head after being lifted out of the ground.

Waterview TBM Cutter Head



The official video of the TBM breakthrough

The September and October Timelapses. The latter includes the TBM starting to be dismantled

The tunnels are due to open in early 2017

Auckland Rapid Transit Network

This is AT’s official future vision for  the Rapid Transit Network in Auckland. I feel the need to show this again in the context of a number of uninformed views about the CRL popping up again, as one of the chief misunderstandings is to treat the City Rail Link as a single route outside of the network it serves.

All successful transport systems are designed through network thinking and not just as a bunch of individual routes, this is true of our existing and extensive motorway network just as it is true for our rapidly growing Rapid Transit one. The Waterview tunnel is not being built just so people can drive from Mt Roskill to Pt Chev, and nor is the CRL just to connect Mt Eden to downtown.

The CRL is but one project on the way to a whole city-wide network, as is clearly shown below, and as such it doesn’t do everything on its own.

But then having said that because it is at the heart of  the current and future city-wide network it is the most crucial and valuable point of the whole system. That is true today and will continue to true for as long as there is a city on this Isthmus. In fact it is hard to overstate the value of the CRL as by through-routing the current rail system it is as if it gives Auckland a full 100km Metro system for the cost of a pair of 3.4km tunnels and a couple of stations. This is simply the best bargain going in infrastructure in probably any city of Auckland’s size anywhere in the world and is certainly the best value transport project of scale in New Zealand. Because it is transformational* for the city and complementary to all our existing systems, especially the near complete urban motorway network.

Additionally the capacity it adds to the region’s whole travel supply is immense: taking up to 48 trains an hour this can move the equivalent of 12 motorway lanes of car traffic. All without flattening any place nor need to park or circulate those vehicles on local roads and streets. And all powered by our own renewably generated electricity. This is how the city grows both in scale and quality without also growing traffic congestion.

AT Rapid Transit Network - 2041

This map will evolve over time as each addition is examined in detail. For example I expect the cost-effectiveness and efficiency a rail system over the harbour, up the busway and to Takapuna to become increasingly apparent well before this time period. In fact as the next harbour crossing, so we are likely to see that in the next decade, otherwise this is that pattern that both the physical and social geography of Auckland calls for. Additionally Light Rail on high quality right-of-ways, although not true Rapid Transit, will also likely be added in the near term.

Welcome to Auckland: City.

* = transformational because it substantially changes not only our movement options, the quality of accessibility between places throughout the city and without the use of a car, but also Auckland’s very idea of itself; we have not been a Metro city before: It is doing things differently.


Matt suggested adding this more recent version. I agree this is a good idea, it shows just how quickly ideas are changing in Auckland right now. This is a very fluid and exciting time for the city as the new possibilities are becoming acknowledged by all sorts of significant players. It remains my view that extending our existing rail system is better for Mangere and the Airport, but that taking AT’s proposed LR across the harbour in its own new crossing is a really good option:

RPTP potential LRT + RTN Map

And just this morning we get wind of these very big changes for those making plans for Auckland. It looks like the funding roadblocks [pun intended] for the necessary urban infrastructure that the growing and shifting Auckland needs may be melting away….?

Treasury Tweets


Waterview breakthrough

Congratulations to the NZTA and the team building the Waterview connection after Alice the tunnel boring machine broke through for the second tunnel this morning. There is still a lot of work to do to finish the tunnels such as digging the cross passages and building the actual roads but it is an important milestone. Regardless of your views of the project it is an impressive bit of engineering, especially just how accurate they are able to be.

Alice, the giant Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM) has today successfully completed excavation of the second motorway tunnel on Auckland’s Waterview Connection motorway project.

One of the largest TBM’s ever used in the Southern Hemisphere broke through into daylight after its 2.4km-long journey underground between the suburbs of Waterview and Owairaka.

“Today’s breakthrough is a massive milestone for a project that will transform the way Aucklanders get around their city – a brilliant and remarkable effort and a proud day that needs to be celebrated,” says the NZ Transport Agency’s Highways Manager in Auckland, Brett Gliddon.

Around 800 staff and contractors who’ve been working hard to deliver the project, stopped work this morning to watch the breakthrough together, live on specially erected screens and celebrate their success so far.

“The risks associated with constructing tunnels twice as long as the Auckland Harbour Bridge were always high and the Waterview team rightly needs to be congratulated for its engineering skills and innovation to complete this job safely and on time. That’s a fantastic achievement.”

The $1.4bn Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s largest ever roading project. It includes construction of twin 3-lane tunnels – the longest road tunnels in the country – and a giant interchange to connect Auckland’s Northwestern and Southwestern Motorways (State Highways 16 and 20).

The project is being delivered for the Transport Agency by the Well-Connected Alliance.

Tunnelling at Waterview first began in 2013. The first tunnel was completed in September 2014. In a rare manoeuvre for any TBM worldwide, Alice was then turned 180 degrees to complete her second drive.

“The project’s careful and detailed design, planning and operation for the construction of the tunnels and the complex turnaround grabbed some pretty amazing headlines in New Zealand and overseas,” Mr Gliddon says.

During her time underground, Alice excavated enough dirt to fill 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools and installed more than 24,000 concrete segments to line both tunnels.

The TBM’s job is now complete. Over the coming months Alice will be taken apart and returned to the German company, Herrenknecht, that designed and built her.

“Although it’s the end of the road for Alice she will leave behind a lasting legacy – the world class tunnels she helped construct that will benefit Auckland and New Zealand for 100 years and more,” Mr Gliddon says.

Meanwhile, there is a busy programme of work to complete both tunnels. Sixteen cross passages linking the two tunnels are being constructed, equipment to safely operate the tunnels together with lighting and signage are being fitted, walls and the ceiling are being painted, and back-filling continues before the motorway asphalt is laid.

The Transport Agency plans to open the tunnels and the adjacent Great North Road Interchange in early 2017.

The Waterview Connection completes Auckland’s Western Ring Route, a 48km alternative route to SH1. It will link Manukau, Auckland, Waitakere and the North Shore, improving network resilience, travel time reliability and bus shoulder lanes as well as upgrading cycleway and pedestrian facilities.

The Waterview Connection 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.

I am looking forward to the project being finished for a number of reasons – not least of which is the project effectively marks the practical completion of the Auckland motorway network. The idea of “completing the motorway network” is one that has been around for a long time and work on the motorways came at the expense of all other modes for many decades. With Waterview completed I hope we can then start focusing even more on completing our majorly incomplete networks such as our rapid transit and cycle networks.

Of course focusing so much on the motorways was never meant to be the plan. Those that originally dreamt up the motorways also came up with a region wide rapid transit network and even saying it should be built first otherwise the city would end up congested. Unfortunately it seems that part of the report was filed at the back of a drawer somewhere and forgotten, the motorways progressed and congestion ensued.

De Leuw Cather_Highway Report

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland

De Leuw Cather Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland



Waterview September Update

The latest photos and video from the Waterview Connection project. As of last Friday the TBM had just 332 metres to go before breaking through – which should happen in the next few weeks.

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 1

Building sublevel one inside the Northern Approach Trench (NAT)

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 2

Building sublevel one inside the Northern Approach Trench (NAT)

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 3

Inside the southbound tunnel looking towards the NAT.

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 6

The playground opens in summer

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 7

Southern Ventilation Building

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 8

New shared path towards Valonia Fields, seems a bit narrow

Waterview Aerial - Sep 15 - 9

Southern Shared Path beside Valonia Street

The August Timelapse


Waterview Connection July Timelapse

A few of the latest videos and images from the Waterview Connection project. As of the end of last week tunnelling on the second tunnel was just under 70% complete.

The July Timelapse

And a video of the construction of the massive ramps

We often see what the project looks like from above so here are a couple of photos I took the other day of the view those using the NW cycleway get of the ramps.


Waterview Ramps - 2

A view coming to the Northern Motorway at Constellation Dr soon?

Waterview Ramps - 3

Waterview Connection June update

The latest time-lapse and images from the huge Waterview Connection project. There is also a project update here.

Once again the images really highlight the vast scale of the new interchange being built at Waterview.

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 1

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 3

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 4

The tunnel portal at the southern end

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 2

And these are of the old Wiri Quarry which is being filled in with the muck from the tunnels is sent

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 5

Waterview Aerial - June 15 - 6

Waterview Connection May Time-lapse

The latest few images and videos from the Waterview Connection Project.

And the East Tamaki pre-cast facility which has now finished producing 24,000 segments and it plus the machinery are now up for sale. It highlights just what a massive logistical challenge these big projects are and something that will need to be repeated for the CRL.

This image also shows the progress of the southern ventilation building while the image after it shows what it should eventually look like.

I hope AT are planning to do something similar time-lapse videos for when they start the CRL works