Pretty much anyone who has driven along State Highway 16 in recent times would have noticed the massive amount of construction going on with almost half of the entire motorway affected by works. Once the St Lukes interchange upgrade gets under way soon then I believe every single trip along the motorway will be affected by works in some way.

WRR under construction

The works are made up of a number of separate individual projects that all form part of the Western Ring Route. They include the St Lukes Interchange, the Waterview Connection, the causeway upgrade, the Te Atatu Interchange upgrade and the Lincoln Rd interchange. Most of these have only really visibly got under way over the last year or so however the last of those, the $100 million Lincoln Rd Interchange is has been going on for some time, starting in late 2010. That’s about 3½ years ago.

There has definitely been progress and we now have a massively oversized interchange that has been completed (I don’t have any photos sorry but you should really see the westbound off-ramp which is up to four lanes wide). As a side note, I understand one of the reasons the interchange is so big is that the former Waitakere City Council weren’t clear on their land use planning for Lincoln Rd (which is a disaster) so the interchange was basically designed to be as big as possible to cater for potentially massive growth. While most of the interchange itself has been completed, the work seems to be primarily focused on widening the motorway either side of it including the Henderson Creek and Huruhuru Creek bridges. Once those have been completed the motorway on either side will be three lanes each way plus there will be bus shoulder lanes.

Lincoln Rd Interchange details

Overall the NZTA say the project isn’t due to be completed until 2015 but here’s the thing, that’s quite different to what was said when they started the project. Back in 2010 they said in a FAQ with the press release.

Q: How long will it take?

A: Construction will begin imminently and will be completed by 2013.

So that suggests the project is running two years late. For what was meant to be approximately a three year project that’s quite a long time. That would also make the interchange project an almost 5 year ordeal and one of our longest motorway construction projects in history. So here is some information on just how long other massive projects have taken in recent times.

Central Motorway Junction upgradeOct-02Dec-064 years 2 months$209 million
SH20 Mt Roskill ExenstionAug-05May-093 years 9 months$186 million
SH20 Manukau Harbour Bridge duplicationApr-08Aug-102 years 4 months$230 million
SH20-1 extension to ManukauJun-06Jan-114 years 7 months$220 million
Greenhithe DeviationSep-03Dec-074 years 3 months$110 million
Upper Harbour Bridge DuplicationFeb-03Dec-063 years 10 months$35 million
Hobsonville DeviationOct-08Aug-112 years 10 months$220 million
Victoria Park TunnelNov-09Mar-122 years 4 months$340 million
Newmarket ViaductJun-09Mar-133 years 9 months$244 million

There are some very challenging projects on this list.

Now there could be some legitimate reason why it’s taking longer. Perhaps the NZTA deliberately decided to slow down the project so that it wasn’t completed so far in advance of projects like the Te Atatu interchange that it caused its own problems i.e. widening the motorway to three lanes could have been done but until the Te Atatu interchange is completed those three lanes would have just had to merge down to two anyway. Still there are some potentially good reasons for them to have finished earlier, in this case the extra lanes created could have been used as bus lanes in the interim helping to make up for delays caused by the closure of bus lanes elsewhere on the route.

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  1. I think your dates for the Newmarket viaduct was too short, the project started in 2008, YouTube videos from NZTA show Helen Clarke (as PM) officiating at the blessing ceremony when the new viaduct footings were being poured and that was mid-Winter (August?) 2008.
    And There is no way that the Government can claim this to be a RoNS done on their watch as a result.

    So that would be over 4 years of “construction time” from start to finish for that project.

    Speaking of “RoNS”, how many projects on your list have been proclaimed (accurately or otherwise) as being “RoNS” by either Joyce or Brownlee over the years?

  2. They were working 24 hours a day at the end of the Victoria Park Tunnel project to get it open on time (i.e., before the election). This must have been excruciatingly expensive. So there is a plus side to not rushing things.

          1. The consortium building the VP tunnel came back to NZTA with a really good price to underground both directions and remove the flyover at the same time. Not doing this is a huge missed opportunity, and shows that NZTA’s analyses are critically limited as they fail to include externalities like place value. Furthermore part of the argument for this work was that the still extant 60s flyovers were failing structurally and needed replacement. So instead of spending a relatively small sum to fully underground this route and return Vic Park to wholeness, tens of millions have been spent to ‘repair’ the old clunkers. No doubt soon the agency announce the ‘need’ to expensively duplicate them a la Newmarket.

            That’s what I mean.

          2. It was 90 million plus no need to spend 30 on shoring up the old shitty flyovers, so a net 60; a bargain. Good value for money. And there will never be your additional road tunnels under the harbour so it will be sufficient for the very long term.

          3. Wow ! $60M is indeed very cheap for a tunnel. It shows there must be a very high set up cost for such a project. Perhaps it shows we should be looking at more tunnels, both road and rail.

          4. Not $90 million for a tunnel, $90 million extra marginal cost to turn the three lane tunnel into a six lane tunnel. Total project would have been just on half a billion. According to Fletchers at least, perhaps they could have been low balling that to sell the project, only to come back later for variations to complete it. Not an unusual tactic.

            Interesting that most of the recent NZTA options for a third harbour crossing include duplicating the VPT anyway.

          5. These options:

            As far as I can see all the tunnel options include a duplicated VPT running southbound to Cook St, and extending the existing VPT across to Cook.

            I don’t see why you’d need six lanes between Cook St and the bridge, particularly as half the traffic there is coming from uptown and not the CBD. If anything I’d just use the VPT alone for both directions, perhaps just as one lane each way, or perhaps extending the variable barrier system to allow the centre lane to run in the peak direction (or even just signal control it and limit the speed to 50km until you clear the tunnel).

          6. Well Richard whatever you think about the cost that was the actual offer from the consortium. And yes it was for three lanes each way and clearly taking advantage of the one time opportunity to leave southbound traffic on the then existing two lanes while removing the then Northbound structure [they are separate]. One cut and cover six lane tunnel clearly does not cost the same as two three lane ones. Still only two sides to retain at the same length with exactly the same forces from the surrounding ground. Double the area to bridge over the structure, but still with the opportunity to support from between the two roadways, ventilation and entry and exit not much different from what had to be built anyway for one side and retaining the flyovers.

            Lost opportunity, short-termism, and no value given to place. So business as usual then.

          7. Ok sounds good then, turn the VPT into one lane each way to Cook. Can’t cost much to build an internal wall down the middle and let the vehicle motion passively ventilate for the most part.

          8. Well yes that’s the theoretical, but I don’t think it would be wasted because I don’t think they will actually do the harbour crossing in the next few decades, if at all. The sheer cost of the project presents such a massive funding envelope that I can’t see it every happening regardless of whether its a good scheme or not.

            It will be just version 17 of the regular plans for additional crossings that have happened every five years or so since the bridge was built.

          1. I have to ask SF. Why are there not SB on/off ramps at Squadron Dr on SH18? Why push the traffic on to Hobsonville Rd? And the 2 lane roundabouts on Brigham Creek near the on/off ramps have far too high a design speed. It’s bloody dangerous.

          2. Patrick, even if it was a fee proposal I think it was wrong and I would have thought that the contractor knew that or it was a draft. You are quite right that at that price it could well have been more efficient but I have serious doubts as to whether it was realistic.

            There would be some savings of building a wider tunnel rather than 2 separate ones and you might get some savings on establishment but you still would have double the earthworks, double the decontamination, double the pavement, double the portal costs at least, double the demo on the overbridge, massively more temporary works and traffic, a lot more professional services fees, a lot more works to interface with the existing road network not to mention vertical grade issues, possibly double the construction period (or offset acceleration), increases in bridging requirements, increased services & HVAC, potentially massive more service relocations…. the list goes on…..

            but as usual don’t let that get in the way of a good beatdown on NZTA. You do realise that they might just have one or two people involved in these major projects that might know a bit more than you?

          3. Thanks for the answers. Judging by AT’s determination the Hobby Rd needs upgrading, I think the presumption was wrong. That’s backed up by my observations along there. As for the roundabouts – 20? I often see vehicles doing 60 through there.

          4. Flyn I never said NZTA turned it down; they may well have advised to accept the proposal [I don’t have that information], the rejection was made by the Minister after saying that if Auckland wants a better result then they [the Council] can pay the difference. I’m simply repeating the facts. You have more information; go ahead and share.

          5. At the end of the day, what we have now is seven lanes across the park instead of six. So even if it cost absolutely nothing to double the tunnel, if you don’t value things like the urban environment we are still arguably better off already.

          6. Geoff you might have missed it in the thread above, but I was comparing the existing VPT project to the option of building a six lane tunnel and demolishing the flyover, not to what was there previously.

          7. If someone had built a concrete slab building on stilts across the breadth of Victoria Park I’m sure there would be plenty of people wanting it torn down too.

          8. Well step one is to stop building shit like that in the first place (basin reserve), and let’s not get started on gross wastes of the transport budget while we’re still pouring money into a bottomless pit at Lincoln to build an oversized interchange we don’t need.

            Sorry but unfortunately I don’t think we get to elect which of the MoT’s boondoggles our taxes get spent on.

            Hey Auckland ratepayers, would you rather give us $180 each to underground the motorway through Victoria Park, or should we make you pay $10,000 each to do it with a harbour tunnel instead?

            Pretty sure I know what people would agree to with their rates instead.

          9. Can I ask that you delete all of my posts please to go along with the ones that dont suit your agenda, i’ve decided I dont want any of them to show thanks rather than the ones you chose to show. I had a fail of restraint yesterday and should have said nothing.

            Thank you in advance for deleting all of my posts like any self respecting human would.

          10. You may ask.

            But we will not delete your posts, for a couple of reasons.

            First, us bloggers are not self-respecting “human beings”; we are droids from the planet Xenon. Second, this is the “”world wide web”; nothing is ever deleted. Once the grey “post comment” pill has been taken there’s no going back.

          11. Richard like all other commenters we have no deal with you. Here’s how it works; just like anyone else you comment, and we generously let that outpouring stay here on our space, except for the ones that we decide cross the line. And cross several lines they usually do, most often than not these ones; excessive commenting on a thread, moaning about the blog, opinion presented as fact without substantiation.

            I’m sorry but we don’t offer an editing service for incautious commenters. If you don’t like any of this you can always just take your efforts elsewhere. Pretty much that’s the deal.

  3. As I sit here on my bus at the Lincoln road on ramp, I observe there is no construction happening at the moment. Lots of high visibility workers trying to look busy by walking around but that’s it.

    Matt, your point about lanes is correct. If it was three lanes it would be back to two at the bridge here.

  4. Agree it looks overscaled. The thing i am very happy about is the motorway planting. All other areas have their motorway eges planted with native bush now which looks fantastic and has transformed the city and must give some humanity to the people living near the road. The other thing i would like answered (which isn’t really a transport question) is what would it take to get rid of the ugly power transformers at the lincoln road interchange, and the power poles undergrounded.. Vector has raised their prices for better infrastructure – would love to see some undergrounding of power especially in village centers.,

    1. Vector cannot get Commerce Commission permission to recover the cost of undergrounding. Undergrounding existing streets is very expensive.

      1. 🙁 They’ve obviously done some through key areas. The difference in Avondale when they took the power lines down and planted the Magnolia trees was huge! Through key entrances and town and village centres is worthwhile and we should chip away at it.

        1. They are spending $10M per year, but that buys very little because the work is so expensive. They not only have to avoid other utilities but connect each property they pass. They also have to allow property owners access to their property while the work is happening.

      2. About a decade ago we were given the option to chip in for our street, however it was several grand per house and we were the only ones with a pole in a particularly annoying place so nobody else much cared. I’ll note they’ve replaced the pole not once but twice already!

        1. It must be cheaper to maintain underground lines but the capital cost is greater. Vector has an agreement with AECT to spend $10M pa in Manukau, Papakura and Auckland (the old Auckland Electric Power Board area) undergrounding lines, but that doesn’t buy many kms.

          1. Blow over less often in storms too! Good money spent in my view, but agree, very costly, often.

          2. The more undergrounding the better! Apart from the benefits mentioned so far, as Patrick would say, the place-making effects are huge. Make residential streets much more pleasant, as well as safe and the network more reliable etc. etc.

            Vector’s website is light on details about which streets are being considered for undergrounding… they won’t release any details about which areas they’re considering until it’s all decided. Any way to find out? Give them a nudge to do more?

          3. There appears to be no way to find which streets are being considered. Their process appears to be to draw up a list of streets they would like to underground and compare this with the AT and Watercare lists of streets requiring new footpaths or watermains. Streets that appear on all 3 lists are then sent for costing. Vector are very bitter about Commerce Commission rulings and are very unlikely to throw more money into the pot. Major road works do result in undergrounding but I do not know who pays for this, and whether it is included in the $10M budget.

          4. Another reason that Vector isn’t keen to underground cables is because “Canterbury Earthquakes have highlighted that
            underground cables are vulnerable if subjected to uneven settlement of the ground.” from The Auckland Engineering Lifelines Project – AELP-2 Section 5: Earthquakes @

            A 1 in 10,000 year earthquake (same return interval as MM9 shaking in Christchurch) would cause the following liquifaction damage to Auckland’s electricity network:
            Local network
            Substation buildings classified as earthquake prone
            including The Drive, Spur Rd, Wellsford and Brickworks.
            2 sections of sub transmission systems pass through
            liquefiable soils.
            Power supplies to CBD may be threatened since Quay Street
            Substation is on reclaimed land which is vulnerable to
            Other nodes at risk due to possible liquefaction are
            Greenmount, Mangere West, Mt Wellington, Newmarket,
            Ngataringa Bay, Takanini, Waimauku, Wairau Rd and Wiri.

          5. Many of the substations you have listed are fed by underground cable already. Tall pylons can topple if the ground liquefies anyway. The new Pakuranga substation is both fed by underground cable, and has had pylons to the city replaced by underground cable, so earthquake cannot be a major worry.

          6. Neil, That list was compiled by the Auckland Engineering Lifelines Project, of which Vector is a member. The ” uneven settlement of the ground” comment relates specifically to the local distribution lines. Perhaps I shouldn’t have included the list as it identifies the vulnerable substations which have not yet recieved the treatments implemented by Orion in Christchurch between 1997 and 2006, a quite different problem to that of repairing multiple breaks in buried cables.

          7. Lifelines is discussing identified problems in the Vector network which were constructed before liquefaction was a recognized problem. It is quite possible to underground power lines in almost all parts of Auckland and Manukau. If the area is subject to liquefaction then it is taken into account at the design stage. Transformers mounted high on power poles are a far worse problem in an earthquake.

          8. The upper section of Bassett Road is having power undergrounded at the moment. The footpaths are not being replaced as they have been replaced TWICE in recent years (once on Auckland City upgrade plan and the second time after UFB cabling installed). In this case it would appear that a major determinant of which street gets upgraded relates directly to the property values.

          9. Neil, for expert assessment of the relative vulnerability of underground cables and pole mounted transformers see pages 15-17 of$file/ODonnell-Orion-Resilience-planning.pdf
            and pages 127-129 of

            Hopefully OnTrack/KiwiRail and AT included natural emulated Orions disaster preparedness approach when designing the rail electrification system.

            Mind you, the potential natural hazard threats for the electricity network in Christchurch was more complicated than in Auckland because snowstorms and earthquakes are more frequent than in Auckland whereas volcanic eruptions and cyclones are somewhat less frequent hazards.

          10. Thanks for this Kevyn. It is interesting that transformers on single poles are better than two poles. The lifelines risk realities document gives the OK for cables.

            “It is expected that most underground cables will respond well to an earthquake although damage can be expected where cables are stretched as a result of ground subsidence.”

            Underground cables are good for cyclone and volcano risks which is what is most important for Auckland. They are also good for residents because there are no poles for cars to hit.

          1. @Don, it makes a mockery of Vector’s claim that they try to coordinate with other utility installations when undergrounding…

            @Patrick, maybe it’s simply a case of areas with more political pull getting undergrounded? Time for some transparency perhaps…

  5. Anyway worse than late is the fact that when finished it won’t be fit for purpose. Unless that is NZTA lift their game and add full busway and efficient and connected stations along with the costly general lane widening. There is absolutely no excuse for not doing this; they know full well the high value of the Northern Busway to the efficiency of the whole State Highway system in Auckland so to so this work without properly serving this mode would be a blow to the idea that this institution’s actions are evidence based or rational.

    1. Even if they had future proof the design so that AT could have built a bus way in future. I take the bus every day from Lincoln Road and there’s no congestion relief for buses

  6. Oh look, there’s a cycleway planned on both sides of Lincoln Rd and a several stage (by the looks of it) set of lights to get across. Imagine if motorists on the motorway had to wait for 2 phases to cross Lincoln Rd?

  7. iirc NZTA changed priorities after the project had commenced, deciding that other parts of the WRR had higher priority. Can’t find any mention of it online now…

  8. As I understand it. They ran out of money and the west bound on ramp will be left as is. they won’t be replacing the west bound bridge until they do the royal road over bridge. The cycleway was going to get extended to Huruhuru rd but this won’t happen now untill the west bound bridge is replaced. Not that anyone would have used it as you would have had 4 pedestrian lights to get accross lincoln rd. If they link the extended cycleway that will terminate at lincoln rd back to triangle rd this will be ok. If not then we will just continue to exit the cycleway as we do now onto central park drive and continue from there to triangle rd.

  9. Nice wetlands though eh?! …I only say that because I designed them. A challenge within the space available the cycleway looping round the back was one of my ideas too!

    1. I missed this earlier. The trip away from the mwy and past the wetlands looks like it will be nice especially once it’s all grown a bit. Nice job.

  10. Originally the design team were pushing for an underpass, it got shelved early on due mainly to cost. A shame really as the signals really disrupt the route, I know I’ve waited at them!

    1. I have heard that CAA actually asked for it to be futureproofed, and were told that yes, it has been futureproofed (for a bridge, not an underpass), but there was no chance for that bridge to be built as part of the interchange, as the cycleway onwards to Royal Road and Westgate was only going to be built many years later.

      I heard that that was (one of) the reasons the solid meadian of the Lincoln Road interchange is so wide, so they can stick a bridge pillar down into it later, like at Great North road cyclebridge.

  11. Westbound On-ramp

    They are!

    Also, with regards to the westbound Henderson Creek bridge replacement this is being replaced this year also (as far as I know). The temporary works is quite a challenge to do this work; the bridges themselves are highly complex as they have been successively widened over the years and have variable construction integrity.

    1. They have almost finished the new west bound bridge at henderson creek. we cyclists have already been diverted back onto it. They have just started to demolish the old west bound bridge. currently west bound traffic is on the old east bound bridge.

  12. Just so everyone understands, there has been no late delivery on the part of the contractor. The original contract was scheduled to be completed in 2013. However, there have been variations and extensions to that contract since then, bringing it to its’ current work scope. It is scheduled to be completed mid 2015, and as I understand it is currently running slightly ahead of schedule.

    1. It has all proved to be a rather entertaining story which I’m sure you would all find interesting, however I’m not at liberty to say.

      What is public however is that when construction started the project was meant to be a full upgrade to the existing interchange being completed in 2013.

  13. Yep Bryce, three phases I believe, with staggered ped barriers to add to the challenge. There was a suggestion that a single (straight) two phase crossing be built further along towards Triangle Rd but… that would’ve meant the cars waiting back through the intersection.
    Also Ran, with regards to Lincoln Road itself, a lot of the congestion issues (bus lanes)’should’ be resolved once AT pulls finger and start building the corridor upgrade, partularlygle with regards to Triangle Rd intersection, which in its current form prevents the M/way intersection from functioning correctly!

    1. 3 phases to cross Lincoln Rd. That’s going to be 5 minutes of so. I can imagine some compliance issues. “Damn cyclists running red lights”

  14. Interesting Wayne, one of the ‘reasons’ they discounted it a Te Atatu was safety i.e. the potential users might be mugged if they used it!!

    1. It hasn’t been discounted at Te Atatu. It is in the design, and it is 5m wide. Similarly, NZTA has changed the walk/cycleway overbridge at Rosebank Road on/offramp to an (even wider) underpass.

  15. Matt. our longest motorway construction projects in history would have to be the Saddle Hill section of the Dunedin Southern motorway where the substantial earthworks were completed in the late 1970s but the second carriagway was not completed until 2004, and the Christchurch Southern motorway where one carriageway was completed in 1981 and the second carriageway was completed 2014. The Wanganui and New Plymouth motorways were also started in the 1970s but there are no longer any plans to build the second carriageways or extend them to their full original lengths. These, as far as I know, are the longest “construction periods for motorways, but there are probably many that have been in the planning stages or designation stage, such as the St Albans section of the Christchurch Northen Motorway which was designated for 25 years during which time three-quarters of the land was purchased.

  16. It’s criminal the costs this sloppy contract management can push onto the commuting public. Whether we travel by bus, car or bike we are all getting a very raw deal from the delays and procrastination in this project. If anyone is project managing it they are a gross incompetent. The rat race onto the North Western begins well before 6am as commuters try to avoid the daily log jams at Royal Rd, Lincoln Rd and across the causeway. Add the cost of this from 2010 to 2017 and put that into the already pathetic cost benefit equation and it wouldn’t be pretty. The cost of a bike tunnel or bridge at Lincoln Rd pales into insignificance in comparison. And nobody puts their hand up to stand accountable.

  17. A mouth-watering $1.8 billion spent from Oct 2002 to March 2013 on these projects. WOW With another $2b plus on Waterview, $0.75b on P2WW and $1.5 on AMETI

  18. The length of time this project is taking is becoming excessive to the point where productivity or lack there of is taking its toll on commuters ability to make timely journeys on this route. I myself waste several hours per month commuting what can only be described as a time, money and energy draining exercise. Using this road up to 4 times a day shows very little progress with machinery at a standstill with hardly any constriction workers in sight. By the time the populous benefit from this project their tax contribution to this disaster of planning and executing would have increased several fold. I have witness far larger projects in third world countries completed in a fraction of the time..hopefully old age won’t get me before I ever see the end of this.

    1. The sad thing it isn’t a planning failure, it’s deliberate. The NZTA slowed down the project so they could spend the money on more stuff elsewhere (such as Christchurch post earthquake) and seeing as the upgrade isn’t much use without the rest of the works happening then it wasn’t like much benefits would have accrued anyway.

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