After months of delays the opening of the Waterview tunnels is finally in sight with Transport Minister Simon Bridges announcing it will open in early July and that there will be open days over the next two weekends. That follows the ribbon cutting on Sunday.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges says Auckland’s Waterview Tunnel will open to traffic in early July, marking the biggest milestone in the city’s transport network in more than half a century.

The $1.4 billion Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s biggest and most complex roading project, including twin 2.4km-long three-lane tunnels.

“Once open, it will transform the way people and freight move around Auckland, and will represent the biggest change in travel patterns since the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959,” Mr Bridges says.

A ceremonial opening on Sunday, 18 June will be followed by public open day’s to allow people the chance to experience the tunnel up close before opening to traffic.

They’ve also released this fly through.

It seems odd that they can have public open days but still don’t list an exact opening date. If I had to guess, they’re waiting for school holidays to start before opening the tunnel to lessen the chance of massive congestion creating news stories the next day.

Interestingly there are two open days, one on the Sunday 18th and another a week later on Sunday 25th but to attend you had to book a spot at http://www.tunnelopening.co.nz/. After being announced at about midday yesterday, Simon Bridges tweeted at just after 5pm that already over 22,000 tickets had been snapped up. Unfortunately, as of later last night the site says that all tickets for all sessions have been snapped up. One of the first to go were all the tickets to be able to ride a bike through the tunnel – although the NZTA placed some bizarre conditions on that too, like only allowing people over the age of 16, and as these Facebook replies indicate, not even allowing kids on bike seats.

We thought there might be an announcement coming after the NZTA published 14 videos on YouTube about tunnel on Friday. Some were merely information, like telling people to stay in their lane, what the vehicle height limits are etc. but a number are also talking about how it will affect people’s journeys. One thing that’s notable from them is the people talk about how they think it’s going to make their trips at peak times faster when the NZTA have been saying the opposite, including this recently.

If you’re expecting the long-awaited new Waterview Connection to ease Auckland’s rush-hour traffic, prepare to be disappointed.

NZTA Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon told The AM Show on Friday the $1.4 billion tunnel will twice a day likely suffer the same gridlock as the rest of the city.

“We’ve never said it would fix peak congestion in the city,” said Mr Gliddon. “There’s still going to be a morning peak and an afternoon peak, and the tunnel will be a part of that.”

Here are the full versions of the story videos (there are some short versions too).

I do think the tunnel will be useful and I’m looking forward to using it (off peak/weekends) when I’m heading to see family in South Auckland/out of Auckland. But at peak times traffic is likely to be as bad as ever with this graphic giving a good indication of the issues the opening of the tunnel will create. Citybound, the two lanes from the tunnel plus the lane from the Gt North Rd interchange plus the three lanes on SH16 from west of Waterview all need to join and merge into four lanes east of Waterview. Westbound there is also likely to be challenges as there will be traffic from the tunnels needing to weave across multiple lanes to exit at Rosebank.

I think it will be an interesting few weeks as we have the official opening then move on to the actual opening. We’ll finally get the answers to so many questions, such as

  • How badly will it be congested in the peak?
  • Will local roads see the traffic reductions the NZTA promised in their modelling?
  • Will it ease any traffic through SH1 and the central motorway junction?
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61 comments

  1. And, party time, the completion of the motorway network!

    Now it’s time to urgently complete the missing rapid transit network, so the motorway one might actually work, even at the peaks, and not just be clogged with single occupant drivers for want of decent, citywide, and coherent alternative.

    This needs to be explicit policy, and it needs NZTA not only to be directed and enabled to deliver it, but transformed from a highway only agency into an actual multimodal transport and land use outcomes based one.

    Then the lettuce might actually get through, in a reliable and reasonable time.

    1. if you read Simon bridges words he actually said that the new tunnels would “substantially” complete the WRR which means there is still more to come. People seem to forget the omnishambles that is going to be created at SH18 / SH1 at Constellation when the tunnels open. The upgrade of this intersection should have been started a long time ago.

  2. Safety: Think how many people they can fit in the tunnel if they’re all on bikes. Many more than if they’re in cars. No wonder they’re worried about safety should something go wrong. But I think there’s another lesson here.

    Interesting reading the traffic modelling report. Every “origin to destination” pathway that will apparently use a significant capacity of the connection, would have been better served by a more direct route with a rapid transit solution.

  3. Doesn’t Upper Harbour interchange have to be built to complete the WRR?

    This will be great for Auckland, finally a quicker route to the airport! But yes, I can see the citybound lanes that merge into 1 after exiting the tunnel backing right up during peaks.

    1. If I remember correctly the Airport roads are gridlocked themselves so its a quicker way to another gridlock.

      This would be funny were it not so insane.

    2. Yes it does. So far they don’t even have a plan to complete it. The bit they have consulted on doesn’t have south facing ramps. What ever way you think about a ring route it has to be a route to travel around the centre. So without south facing ramps connecting SH1 and SH18 they don’t have a ring, all they have is a bypass.

      1. You’re being a bit disingenuous. The “ring” description has never that I can recollect been intended to mean a circle but rather an alternative route south to north by-passing the CMJ.

        The 18/1 Junction plans are future proofed for a west/south connection but they don’t want to build it and simply add volume to the existing northern motorway until the AWHC is in place to deal with it.

        At least the west/north plans include the busway extension and a new station.

        1. That is bullshit. The consultation on the Greenhithe section showed a ring route. People put up with a motorway through their neighbourhood and in exchange they would get a direct connection to and from SH1. Ring routes are exactly that. Now the liars want to claim it was only ever a bypass.

          1. “People put up with a motorway through their neighbourhood” ignores the fact that it predominantly went through rural land. It was also well designated since the time that Greenhithe had a population of <500. Moreover there still is an intent to develop the west/north route.

            The reality is what has happened is the west/north connection has been moved forward from some time in the mid 30's to pretty much now.

            I've been lobbying NZTA on this very piece of infrastructure for over a decade now. At no time did they ever indicate west/north was ever going to happen before AWHC.

            The work that is programmed should still give a slight benefit for traffic going west/south because of the separation out of traffic going north

          2. North Shore City had a designation for a two lane road. There was no motorway designation until Transit NZ lodged a Notice of Requirement in 1999. As part of that they presented evidence that it formed part of a ‘ring road’. But they quickly dumped out everything east of the then proposed Paul; Matthews intersection as they decided it was too hard. They also came and consulted on making it a toll road, again with connections to the south but dumped that scheme pretty quickly as well.
            The problem we have is that the Upper Harbour Highway which was built by ratepayers of the North Shore has been screwed up by Transit NZ and NZTA who only want to think about long distance trips.

          3. I actually agree with mfwic here. The problem isn’t that NZTA aren’t building the ramps. It’s that they have promised to for a long time.

        2. And your point about adding volume to the northern motorway doesn’t even make sense. People from the south going to SH18 queue the whole length of the off ramp and already cause a problem. It would be stupid to wait for more capacity to fix that. People going south from SH18 are already doing so and blocking the motorway interchange stuffing up people who are trying to go under the motorway between Upper Harbour Drive and Constellation Drive. That is actually the most important movement but because Constellation is not a state highway NZTA dont give a toss. They are happy to let their traffic block North Shore arterials. And because AT don’t care they get away with this shit.

          1. In this 2008 publication, Transit claimed planning for the Upper Harbour motorway began once Waitemata City’s Upper Harbour bridge opened in 1975, and the Upper Harbour Highway was designed to be part of that (hence the way it split into “ramps” at Albany Highway). It was gazetted as SH18 in 1994, which iirc put it under Transit control and funding.

            http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/resources/auckland-motorways/docs/2008.pdf

            https://gazette.govt.nz/notice/id/1994-au6989

          2. Bryan don’t get the impression that there was some sort of long term planning happening- there wasn’t. The 1973 version of that motorways brochure shows no connection at all. Waitemata County and the ARA (and I think the short lived Regional Roads Board) pushed to provide a link. After the bridge went in all the improvements mentioned on page 20 of your link were done by the local councils. North Shore City built the Upper Harbour Highway from Albany Highway to SH1 using rates and the Government subsidies that Councils could get. It was their biggest project and to make it manageable was spread over a few years. Only after it opened did the Government gazette it as you linked. That was done to make the Bolger governments plan to dump a lot of State Highways onto Councils look like a restructure rather than a cost cutting & dumping exercise. It was the only new SH added. After taking it from NSCC Transit then ignored it for the rest of the decade only doing their NoR in 1999. That was the first and only motorway designation. The road was built at Albany Highway as an expressway so it had ramps, but Transit wanted a motorway so they rebuilt the ramps longer to 110km/h design. Then their safety auditors said it should be 80km/h so that is what got posted. (Never mind it is only taxes!)

      2. Clearly to be a ring we need the eastern motorway as well, a central motorway can’t be part of a ring avoiding the centre.

        1. Ha ha.

          One Ring to rule them all. One Ring to find them,
          One Ring to bring them all and in the darkness bind them.

  4. “If you’re expecting the long-awaited new Waterview Connection to ease Auckland’s rush-hour traffic, prepare to be disappointed”.

    NZTA Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon told The AM Show on Friday the $1.4 billion tunnel will twice a day likely suffer the same gridlock as the rest of the city.

    One point four BILLION dollars, and this is the best they can come up with??? Translated, yep its a vast waste of money but hey, there are some very happy wealthy share holders in Fletchers etc.

    And even worse its very existence has reduced the North Western motorway to 80 km/hr just to add insult to injury.

    This idiocy is straight out of our current failed political philosophy of There Is No Alternative, TINA for short, catchy and a lie.

    1. The extraordinary thing now is NZTA blithely admitting that all of our money has been spent on building a massive transport system (and entirely committing us to it) that is only functional, only fit for purpose, off peak!

      There is literally no plan or aim for them to deliver access and connection at the very times people and goods most need/chose to travel, just a shrug, and massaging down of expectations.

      I find this to be extraordinary.

      Their whole structure, process, and culture, is clearly not able to deal with cities. Simply a rural road planner/builder out of its depth in the big smoke…

      I’m sorry if this seems harsh to some dedicated public servants, and of course there are good people, and of course they have political masters, but they are the experts, where is the evidence of strongly advising the ministers that without the complementary on-peak passenger network the vital road and goods system will be critically unstable and for ever suboptimal at the most important times of the day?

        1. No, George. Here Patrick is calling “for them to deliver access and connection” at peak times, not to build expensive roads for peak volumes. Quite different.

        2. “a massive transport system (and entirely committing us to it) that is only functional, only fit for purpose, off peak!”

          “designing roads for a peak is excessive.”

          I don’t see the contradiction? Patrick is saying that we should design a transport system to handle peak, and that roads are clearly proven to not be a viable way to do this.

        3. No George you missed the point. Only roads are considered a failure if they don’t cater for the peak. PT can be overloaded and that is proof of its success. Now repeat with the group “Four legs good, two legs bad”.

          1. Hmmm… thanks for the belittling… you’d fit in well at my place. Mum is always wrong, and so silly with it. 🙂

            Let me see, we could add another lane to a motorway which will allow how many SOV’s through in the peak 15 minutes? Better make it 2 lanes to get any level of capacity. Remembering, of course, that at peak they aren’t really moving very fast. Or we could have a well-designed PT system with bus lanes, etc, and then we’d just need to add a bus, and still have extra capacity. Hmmm… take more land, ruin more communities, induce more traffic, or just add a bus. It’s hard, it’s really hard.

            Let’s do inaccurate traffic modelling, and then we’ll be sure to choose extra roading.

          2. Good point Heidi. Another lane would allow 2000 vehicles per hour through. Now if you are a true believer you would claim that each car only has one person in it. Whereas buses should be assessed by their potential capacity regardless of how many use them. “Four legs good….”

          3. Yes you are quite right mfwic. This one person per car thing is clearly smoke and mirrors cooked up by car hating socialists. They should use the real occupancy rate, which in Auckland at peak times is currently 1.14 people per car.

            CHECKMATE CAR HATTERZ!!!

          4. Oh and for the record, average bus occupancy through Waterview at peak times is 34 people per bus. Not not completely full, but a lot more fuller than the cars on the motorway.

          5. Which doesn’t explain why ATCOP uses 55 per bus or 60% more than they are actually carrying. Or why every numpty who does a graphic showing road space used assumes the bus is totally full.

          6. 55 is pretty close for buses arriving at the city centre. Remember waterview is only halfway along the route. Some others are much higher, peak-hour double deckers on the busway were averaging over 90 last time I checked. That’s near enough to full.

    2. Do bear in mind the $1.4b is only the tunnel. If you add in the widening of the northwestern, the widening of the causeway, the widening SH20 and all the assorted other components, this project is something like $3b all up.

      1. Shh! Don’t let anti-public transport people know that, or they won’t have reason to complain about the CRL! 😉

  5. So cynical of them to be so vague with the opening date – I’d be prepared to place a wager on the date being during the holidays. I’m sure that the mainstream media will ignore that fact, unless the tunnel _is_ immediately congested…

    About the videos – I know that the whole “orange and teal” colour grading is the “in thing” right now, but wow… I’m using a calibrated monitor and it would seem they well and truly overdid it… Way too teal, and in some places almost Donald Trump levels of orange! 🙂

    1. The school holidays makes a lot of sense for a project this size. No matter how well executed it is going to take time for drivers to adjust to the new tunnel, road layouts, route possibilities etc. Divers diving through for the first time are not going to know in advance which lane they should be in, everything will be new, they will be looking around, taking everything in, unsure if they are going the right way. there will probably be last minute lane changes etc. all of this will slow traffic down.
      A school holiday opening, with fewer cars on the road and less pressure should help smooth things out a little.

      1. RE: School holidays = less cars. It really frustrates me that it’s true.

        I grew up in an area with pathetic public transport (high cost and infrequent, often with simply wrong timing to be useful) yet traffic was no more or less intense when the holidays hit. I honestly wonder if other cities have the same issue. I expect the answer to be yes, which of course makes me a grumpy old man (back in my day…) 🙂

        1. It’s always blamed on the number of parents dropping their offspring at school, and I’m sure that contributes. However, I think it has as much to do with being a more common time for people to take annual leave. You only have to take 5 – 10 % of traffic away and congestion disappears.

          1. One of the reasons why it is different today than it was maybe 30 years ago is because of the number of families with school aged children with both parents working. A lot of people take leave to look after/spend time with their children. Or work at home during school holidays as a childcare arrangement. Or they might have a part-time job with school holidays off etc.

          2. In the afternoon and evening it’s also due to term time activities, which stop during the holidays. Pick kids up from two schools, drop one at soccer, go shopping, drop the other at ballet, pick up from soccer, go home to do a chore, back to ballet, and back home, etc.

            I live 150m or so from a primary school which is fully zoned, so no kids live more than a 20 minute walk from school. Congestion morning and afternoon for the school is very bad, making it dangerous for the kids themselves. If this suburb is like all the others, yes, I think the unnecessary school traffic is having a huge effect on traffic volumes city-wide.

          3. Good points Nigel and Heidi. Although I would say parents have always taken annual leave during the school holidays to do stuff with their children, go on holiday etc. However, I imagine it is more prevalent now with two income families.

            I’m pleasantly surprised how many kids walk to the primary school near our place.

          4. In my personal observation I see probably 50 cars driving along a particular stretch of road around 8:15am during school term and at least 80% (probably higher guesstimate) are Chinese/Korean dropping their kids off at school (which is a 5 minute walk away but a 15 minute drive in the traffic they have induced). Doesn’t exist during holidays and what normally takes 10-15 minutes becomes a 1 minute drive.
            Not sure if it just a cultural thing in this circumstance or is more widespread in parents dropping their kids off but traffic does usually improve everywhere during holidays although seems like more in the above example.

  6. I though they would have learned something from the current disaster of the Manukau Connection. Pretty sure State Highway 20 and 1 is worse now since the connection was made.

    1. Tbf they have learnt some stuff from it

      1. Ramp signals will be active from start.
      2. Emergency widening has been added to provide stacking capacity.

  7. some expensive ‘feel good’ public propaganda video’s to attempt to create warm fuzzies with the public about an overly expensive motorway project that fails to meet most of the criteria that they sold it on.

    Good job NZTA.

  8. That diagram’s the kicker. 3+2=4 apparently. But having a look at recent traffic modelling data, its no wonder the design has taken the form it has. In the morning, the northbound tunnel is predicted to have two thirds of traffic going west (not toward the city as I would have expected) and SH16 eastbound is predicted to have only about 60% going citybound beyond the GNR interchange (the rest go in the southbound SH20 tunnel or GNR).

  9. But, but….building more roads relieves congestion right? No? Oh dear, I’m so confused. This isn’t what our lords and masters told us at all.
    Has the lord and master of hypocrisy Joyce, got anything to say?

  10. Labelling this thing as to and from Wellsford demonstrates the flawed mentality of NZTA perfectly. The Auckland motorway system mostly serves Aucklanders with some longer distance traffic using it as well. But in the feeble minds of the NZTA it exists so someone can travel from Wellington to Kaitaia.

      1. +3 it will be very confusing for many drivers to see North rather than North-West.

        Another thing I noticed is how close the ramps are after exiting the northbound tunnel. Since there are no lane changes permitted in the tunnel people will have to be in the correct lane for their ramp before they enter the tunnel quite some distance away as it will be very difficult to do in such a short space after the tunnel.

      1. Perhaps they could remove City Centre from the eastern end and also replace that with “Wellsford (slighty quicker)” That way the very few people going to Wellsford might be informed that either way is fine for them.

  11. Based on the fly through video. it looks like a mess at the western motorway end, as you hit the end of the tunnel are basically blinded by the sun, and then have to veer left to head west and veer right to head into the city, all with not a lot of room to do so.

  12. As of about 2:30pm this afternoon, more days and times are now available for cycling and walking.
    They are on Fri, Mon, Tue 10am-2pm

  13. I thought this $1.4bn project was suppose to have a massive impact on congestion (including on the harbour bridge and southern motorway as traffic bypassing Auckland is meant to be removed from these roads). I still don’t know why exactly they added city facing ramps at the SH!6/Waterview interchange (remember the project is meant to be a bypass of Auckland for Waikato (and further South) – Northland traffic, as well as allowing West Auckland – South Auckland traffic to bypass the central motorway junction) as it will only induce extra traffic into the tunnel and into the eastbound lanes of SH16 between waterview and the CBD while doing nothing to help the people the route is designed for (firstly traffic bypassing Auckland, and second West to South Auckland traffic). In any case we should expect massive congestion relief for $1.4bn and if it doesn’t eventuate we should ask hard questions about why

    1. That was the original plan. No off -On ramps at Waterview for the City traffic. National rejigged the original approval when they came into office.
      Joyce canned the original tunnels as well, moving to a normal cuttings and or underpasses. But the main contractors baulked as the tunnels were a more practical solution and required less steel- concrete- labour- earth works machinery ( all in short supply with the new Rons planned)

  14. This will make that Maioro on ramp much worse in the mornings, but it may possibly make the off-ramp better in the evenings. Will be interesting to see what happens, but I am expecting that traffic will be further backed up through Blockhouse Bay and New Lynn once this opens.

  15. So,Joyce thinks this is the most significant transport event in half a century? Our new trains and the resurgence of rail, anyone? Auckland has bike lanes, more and more? And a new bit of motorway……? Hmmm. Well, I suppose Alice the TBM was kind of interesting.

    1. It’s a big boys’ slot car set. Imagine being the one who can press GO. That would be exciting. I mean, significant. Or maybe it’s like a coal mine. Jobs during construction are all important.

  16. Looking forward to the tunnel finally opening – particularly coming from the south or airport. Just don’t get the design flaw of having to queue to get on at St Lukes going west, to join/cross the GNR exit queue then exit to the tunnel – just adding congestion to SH16 for no reason. Surely the design could have moved Gt North Rd exit to after the tunnel or had a dedicated lane / onramp for the tunnel from the St Lukes / Waterview area.

  17. From the SSC website: “The pre-election period refers to the three months before a general election. In 2017 this is from 23 June 2017 to 22 September 2017. It is during this period during which some restraints on government actions and decision making are expected to be applied.”

    You could assume the ceremonial opening on June 18 will be packed with National Party campaign people whose actions are not restrained by the election period.

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