On Friday afternoon, Newstalk ZB reported, and followed up by the Herald yesterday that the Waterview Tunnels will have lights to control traffic both accessing the tunnels and on the connection out of the tunnels onto SH16 eastbound.
Auckland’s new Waterview Tunnel will speed up travel times, but motorists will have to wait in queues at traffic lights to enter it.
The tunnel connecting the North Western and South Western motorways will open in April, creating the Western Ring Route around the city.
Ramp signals will operate on both of the ramps into the tunnel, and on the longer east-bound tramps out of the tunnel.
But motorists turning west out of the tunnel won’t have to wait at signal lights, so queues of traffic are unlikely to build up inside it.
Signals will also operate on the other side of the tunnel, like at the on-ramp at Maioro Street.
New Zealand Transport Agency Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon said the signals will be able to control traffic through the tunnel in both directions.
Delays caused by traffic signals will be offset by major improvements to travel times and traffic flows.
While this is the first time this has appeared in the media, it isn’t new entirely new as in September last year we revealed that the NZTA had underestimated traffic demand for the Waterview Connection and were undertaking a series measures to try and mitigate the traffic volumes they now expect will occur after opening. These mitigation works included ramp signals as well as emergency widening of some sections of motorway.
What’s interested me the most has been some of the comments from the NZTA in relation to all of this. First up:
Mr Gliddon said completing the connection will allow more cars to travel on motorways, and reduce the number of cars on local roads
If the intention is to reduce the number of cars on local roads then it’s important that the NZTA and Auckland Transport capitalise on that by refocusing them on supporting local movements. That means prioritising walking, cycling, public transport and local access instead of a focus on pumping as many cars along them as possible. Given Waterview has been under construction since 2011, there’s been plenty of time to prepare for this, so surely AT and the NZTA have plans to do this?
Unfortunately, it seems that other than bus lanes on Great North Rd, there are no other changes in this direction planned for local roads, and in fact some of their proposed emergency mitigation was in direct conflict with this, for example AT wanted to put bus lanes citybound on Blockhouse Bay Rd but the NZTA want it kept car focused as an “incident diversion route”.
Next we have:
“It is not a means of removing congestion altogether, especially in peak periods, which is no different to other major cities across the world.”
In many ways this is a very significant statement, like an addict admitting they have a problem, the NZTA have taken the first step by admitting that roads will still be congested, especially at peak times. This is of course a positive first step towards getting a more balanced transport system but it doesn’t do anything to make up for the fact that the NZTA let a golden opportunity to provide people with a genuine option to opt out of congestion, in the form of full busway along SH16. While they have built some bus lanes, they are inadequate, stopping at interchanges and already suffering from being clogged up with vehicles in places. Not building a full busway is a massive failure from all of our transport institutions, especially as ATAP recently recognised that the first parts of it will be needed within a decade, meaning the diggers will need to back in just a few years.
It’s also worth pointing out old project documents like this one that claims Waterview will “relieve congestion“. It also notes that it will reduce traffic on Maioro Rd by 20%, yet as part of the emergency mitigation one of the actions was to ask AT to make changes to increase “off ramp discharge capacity” – in other words to pump more traffic down there.
You don’t have to be a traffic engineer to realise that if SH16 is already clogged every morning towards the city that adding two lanes of traffic from tunnels isn’t going to work well.
These claims of relieving congestion come from a long line of similar type comments from the agency and politicians, including Steven Joyce and others claiming numerous times that Waterview was the “last link” in the Western Ring Route, only to announce the Northern Corridor project just a few years later.
Following on from the initial articles, including the herald’s somewhat alarmist title of “Warning: Waterview tunnel will open to gridlock“, the NZTA issued a press release about it yesterday. It’s quite unusual to get press releases on a Sunday which makes me think some senior managers and/or politicians were not happy. In it, they defended the project and called some of the reporting “misleading”.
Ramp signals at Waterview one way of optimising traffic flows across motorway network
The NZ Transport Agency says ramp signals are just one tool to optimise traffic flow and ensure the safe and smooth running of the entire Auckland motorway network.
Ramp signals similar to those already operating where State Highway 20 joins State Highway 1 will help to regulate traffic flow on both ramps leading in the Waterview Tunnel and the east-bound ramp out of the tunnel.
“Like all the other ramp signals on the motorway network, they will only operate when there’s a need to optimise traffic flow, that could in reality mean they are used very infrequently,” says Brett Gliddon the Transport Agency’s Auckland Highway Manager.
“We don’t expect this to lead to significant queues and headlines suggesting the ramp signals will create gridlock are misleading.”
I found it particularly odd that of all ramp lights around the motorway network they chose to highlight the SH20 to SH1 ramp signals. If you recall that too was promised to be a free flowing connection but the NZTA had to put signals on it after it caused massive congestion on SH1 when it opened.
A new $220 million Auckland link road designed to take the pressure off State Highway 1 is having the opposite effect, forcing transport bosses to install traffic lights to ease congestion.
Ramp signals will be erected to give traffic travelling south along SH1 a chance against motorists muscling their way on to the road from the Southwestern Motorway at Manukau.
The signals are expected to be running within three months, at a point that was originally intended to be a seamless connection.
A recent post implementation review found that some of this issue came from not properly assessing the impacts the project would have which is notable because the emergency mitigation being undertaken only came about due to a new traffic assessment as these issues or other works weren’t identified in the reports used to obtain consent.
Ultimately the issue isn’t about whether the project has ramp signals or not but how these mega road projects are sold and communicated to the public. If our institutions were more honest about the what the real impacts of these mega projects were, it would likely change how many of these projects are viewed.
Now NZTA, when are you getting started on that busway?
This is Part 3 of our series wrapping up the year and in this post I’m looking at Roads. You can also see:
Here’s my summary
The Auckland Transport Alignment Project (ATAP) has been a huge feature of the year and while not strictly road related, I’ll include it in this summary. Importantly, despite I think asking many of the wrong questions and focusing too much on the modelling, it largely came out with the right answers. For example, it highlights
- We can’t build out of way of congestion
- A major expansion of the “strategic public transport network” is required
- Auckland’s motorway network is basically now finished (and also that scope for further widening seems quite limited)
- The Additional Waitemata Harbour Crossing really isn’t needed for a long time
- We need to move to a comprehensive, better pricing system – which ATAP calls “smarter transport pricing”. It suggests it could take a decade to work though the details before it became a reality.
Below is the proposed strategic road network for the next 30 years. As you can see most of this is already in place now.
Waterview/Western Ring Route
Near the end of 2015 the tunnelling was completed at Waterview over the course of 2016 the work has focused on fitting those tunnels out and completing all of the other aspects of the project, including the ventilation buildings and mitigation projects.
In September we revealed the NZTA had some new traffic modelling predicting the opening of the new connection to create havoc and that they were planning to emergency widen a number of surrounding motorways and local roads in a desperate bid to stop the shiny new centrepiece of their system from getting congested.
The tunnels are due to open in April, which is later than I thought it would be but I also wonder if that’s related to getting the emergency widening completed first.
In May the NZTA officially opened rebuilt Lincoln Rd and Te Atatu Rd interchanges as part of the wider Western Ring Route (WRR) project. Both were over budget and Lincoln Rd was three years later than originally stated (and that was even after moving one leg of the interchange to another project). In October the NZTA also celebrated the completion of the St Lukes interchange, with the Pohutukawa still intact.
In July work started on the next stage of the WRR, to widen the motorway between Lincoln Rd and Westgate. A section of motorway that might need to be rebuilt again in just a few years to add a north-western busway – something the government agreed (through ATAP) that was needed within a decade. We have heard rumours though that the NZTA engineers are changing their designs for the Royal Rd and Huhuhuru Rd bridges to accommodate a busway after they were told they might be responsible for delivering it.
Related to the WRR, just a few weeks ago the NZTA applied for consent for the Northern Corridor which will turn the section of SH18 east of Albany Hwy into a full motorway and provide a direct connection to SH1 (northbound). Importantly it also includes the extension of the Northern Busway. That process will be concluded in 2017 and previous indications from the NZTA suggested construction would start in 2018.
The East-West Link loomed larger in 2016 as the project marched on, culminating in the NZTA applying for consent a few weeks ago, at the same time as the Northern Corridor. The NZTA is almost certainly going to face a much bigger fight to get this project over the line though as it also faces significant community opposition, especially to plans to effectively cut off the port area with a motorway and swallow large packets of land for various roads
In June we revealed documents from the NZTA showing the cost had ballooned from $600 million to potentially over $1.8 billion, more expensive than the Waterview Tunnels ($1.4b). Yet from what we can tell the economic assessment is still based on earlier cost estimates. The documents also revealed some of main risks identified for the consenting of the project, with designs at the time putting the roads completely on newly reclaimed land.
Some of those risks have been mitigated a bit over the year as the latest plans place the road mostly back on current land with most of the reclamation planned to be for more extensive mitigation.
Puhoi to Warkworth
While on the topic of big State Highway Projects, the NZTA announced in November they had awarded the contract for the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway. Presumably construction will start in 2017 and is expected to be completed in 2022.
Auckland Transport consents for Mega Projects
Auckland Transport got consent for two of it’s mega road projects, both expected to cost north of $300 million.
They’ve also applied for consent for the Lincoln Rd upgrade which could cost more than $100 million.
Surprisingly little has been heard about AMETI this year. AT were meant to be applying for consent for the Busway between Panmure and Pakuranga but nothing has been made public yet.
In November the government announced a new speed limit guide which when in place would allow for some specific roads to have a 110km/h speed limit but also make it easier for local authorities to have lower speed limits in urban areas which would be welcome.
And despite the talk of safety, the road toll continues to defy the trends of the last few decades, increasing again over the last few years, as the graph below shows (to the end of October)
Are there any key changes I’ve missed?
Tomorrow’s wrap up will focus mainly on non transport stuff.
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
The Hendon Ave bridge for pedestrians and cyclists continues to be built.
Eric Armishaw Reserve Boardwalk under construction
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
And here’s what the bridge will look like when finished.
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
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
And here’s one with pipes and valves for fire safety systems being installed.
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.
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
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.
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:
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….?
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 Report 1965: Rapid Transit plan for Auckland
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.
Building sublevel one inside the Northern Approach Trench (NAT)
Building sublevel one inside the Northern Approach Trench (NAT)
Inside the southbound tunnel looking towards the NAT.
The playground opens in summer
Southern Ventilation Building
New shared path towards Valonia Fields, seems a bit narrow
Southern Shared Path beside Valonia Street
The August 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.
A view coming to the Northern Motorway at Constellation Dr soon?