Yesterday the Waterview tunnels were officially opened by the Prime Minister and Transport Minister Simon Bridges – although it was a photo op Steven Joyce couldn’t pass up either.

Prime Minister Bill English and Transport Minister Simon Bridges have cut the ribbon to mark the completion of the $1.4 billion Waterview Tunnel.

Mr Bridges says the Waterview Tunnel completion celebration today marks the biggest change in Auckland’s transport system since the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959.

“The Waterview Tunnel is one of the most important infrastructure developments to take place in New Zealand and will help unlock Auckland’s potential as a world class city and secure its future economic prosperity,” Mr Bridges says.

“The Waterview Tunnel is the final link in the Western Ring Route, a new 48km route linking the west of Auckland, Manukau, the city and the North Shore.

The term “final link” is interesting as it’s something used in the NZTA material too. If only it was the final bit of work so we could then focus all of our attention on building the much needed and complementary strategic PT network.

I went along yesterday for one of the walks through the tunnel, along with thousands of others. Perhaps one of the more ironic aspects of the day is a lot of people got to the opening of a road by using public transport – a sign of how Auckland is changing perhaps. This was in the form of buses that were put on to shuttle people between the Mt Albert station and Hendon Park where the walk started. This was somewhat surprising given the crappy 30 minute weekend frequencies on the rail network.

Right, onwards to the tunnel

I wonder how many people will ignore the “no lane changing” rules?

Time to enter the orange mouth of the tunnel. There was a steady stream of people making the walk, even getting a little congested in places as people stopped to take photos

It was a little disappointing the walk was limited to only part way though the tunnel, it would have been interesting to walk the whole length and take a look from the towering ramps at the Waterview end. Everyone was funneled through the relatively narrow cross passages. As I understand it, the bike through the tunnel will go the entire length.

In the photos the lanes look quite narrow however this at least gives some perspective as to their widths.

After exiting it was time to head back to the entrance and get another look at Te Whitinga (the crossing), which is the formal name for the Hendon footbridge. It looks great but is a shame it’s not open yet.

Did you go for a walk through the tunnel yesterday, what did you think?

There’s no doubt the tunnel is an impressive bit of engineering. The big question though is what’s going to happen to traffic after it open and just how bad will SH16 be.

Now we wait to find out when it will actually open for use – the NZTA still haven’t said yet.

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73 comments

      1. It got mentioned somewhere 1st weekend of July… but if that’s not correct, then I reckon 8/9 July being the first day of school holidays after masses leave Auckland on Friday.

      2. In respect of the walk throughs, is there walkways and cycleways in this gold plated piece of engineering or is this just one of those hugely ironic moments in our 1950’s philosophy reruns?

          1. No, it is still under construction. The bridge over the NAL at Mt Albert looks to be structurally complete, but still needs barriers and sealing. The path from Blockhouse Bay Road has only just had retaining walls installed, much formation work still to be done.

      1. I don’t think it’s enforceable in the first instance. NZ road code doesn’t make distinction between white solid and broken lines, they simply denote the lane. Historically they offer a suggestion (as in ‘shouldn’t be crossed’ but not ‘mustn’t be crossed) only.

        1. There’s still “unsafe lane change” rule, which Police can exercise if they think it’s appropriate… so while “No Lane Changing” is not a law, the “unsafe lane change” could possibly be applied to all lane changing in the tunnel…

        2. ‘sfunny – we don’t have “no lane changing” rules in the Terrace Tunnel in Wellington – but hardly anyone ever does. Just sort of seems safer that way. Of course, its miles shorter and all, but still – you have to be a bit of a dick to be lane changing in a tunnel.

      1. I assume the logic is to minimise crashes. No shoulder to pull over to means a crash blocks lanes and causes complete chaos. There is also the added risks of an accident and complexity responding to them in a tunne.

        1. It’s no different from the Newmarket viaduct or Harbour bridge except for the CO3. Joyce loves that shit!

          But it will test the resolve of many as NZ drivers are fully unaware you are supposed to stay left as much as practicable. And its times like that you get mobile blocks by drivers alongside each other slowly going through.

  1. One thing I noticed was the wonderfully neatly painted side barriers, which announcements were made very clearly over the megaphone to stop parents letting their kids walk on it.

    My guess is that the first day it opens, it will be only a matter of hours until someone collides with one

  2. “I wonder how many people will ignore the “no lane changing” rules?”

    I wonder that too, a drive through Vic Park tunnel yesterday saw two cars weaving in and out of traffic in a much shorter tunnel.

    1. I drive through Vic Park tunnel most weekdays and lane changing is routine. I doubt many drivers even read the no lane changing sign or if they do they just don’t care.

      While on the subject, will lane changing be allowed as you drive north approaching the Waterview interchange? There will be drivers jostling for position in order to head east or west on SH16.

  3. When I returned to Mt Albert train station, my train was just leaving – so there was a 28 minute wait until the next train.
    Made me glad I decided to drive to Mt Albert train station – but quite angry that I needed to. After walking through the tunnel with to young kids (3 & 7) the last thing I needed was to spend 28 minutes after 6.30pm at night sitting at the train station.
    The 30 minute travel time on the trains is such a nightmare and I really hope they can make changes before 2018.
    As to the Waterview tunnels – I enjoyed getting up close, especially looking at the large panels that were put in place by Alice as they created the hole; pretty impressive.

  4. To all souls whose going to use this tunnel during rush hours… Massive Goodluck from someone who uses the train to get to work!

    1. The efficiency of the ventilation system will be probably tested within the first or second day by peak hour traffic. Let’s hope it can extract all those fumes quickly enough.

      1. ..not to worry, there is lots of spare fume extraction equipment from Britomart that can pressed into service.

  5. The final link is south facing ramps on SH1 at Upper Harbour Drive. They currently have no plans for these at all.

    1. Do you mean you and your neighbours have to double back to the Albany Highway to get onto SH18 towards the west rather than directly via extra ramps from Greenhithe Rd?

      1. No he means motorway to motorway ramps from Sh18 to the south at constellation. Greenhithe already has west facing ramps at the upper harbour bridge.

        1. Well it is a ring road apparently so south facing ramps make no sense, just like east facing ones at Waterview.

  6. What is the reasoning for no lane changing in tunnels? Is there some sort of magic that happens to a person driving in a tunnel that suddenly means lane changing becomes dangerous?

    1. Well yes. A prang on a road is a set back for everyone nearby, but the traffic normally manages to cope. Squeak by, take an alternative route, do a U-turn etc. But a prang in a tunnel is a major, major issue. Its good they have got the delude sprinklers sorted out (remember the Montblanc tunnel fire?) as fires from crashed cars in tunnels are a nightmare. Lane changing in a tunnel, with lanes possibly going at different speeds, and people possibly forgetting to indicate…. seriously, its better to discourage it.

    2. No margin for error: get it wrong and someone hits a solid wall rather than veers onto an adjoining shoulder. Pinball, and not in a fun way.

    3. Sure, is.
      There are ramp signals at the Waterview end when citybound thats what.

      If there are tailbacks into the tunnels [as NZTA desperately fear will happen] and folks start changing lanes while in there to avoid them then all hell will break loose.

      It will only be a little sooner than it will otherwise, anyway mind, but still it will break loose.

      i reckon the first wet day will see [a the first of many] big pileup in the tunnels.

    1. It is 3 lanes in both directions. There is no shoulder. I assume that the lane that was fenced off in the photos for emergency services for the event.

      There is a large gravel shoulder before the tunnel for stopping.

      1. Is this normal? The northbound Puhoi tunnel is one lane with very wide shoulders either side. I know the northbound cut-and-cover tunnel under Victoria Park is three lanes but this is a very short section.

        1. Yes it is a two lane tunnel, (future proofed for a future highway extension). I guess the reason why it is currently only set up as one lane is so that all the merging of the two traffic lanes occurs before you enter the tunnel. The south bound tunnel starts immediately with two lanes.

  7. “Perhaps one of the more ironic aspects of the day is a lot of people got to the opening of a road by using public transport”

    This comment sums up this blog in a nutshell. The contributors view it as PT/Walking/Cycling vs Cars. The reality is that transport modes work in complementary fashion in both ways.

    As an aside does anyone have a measurement on the lane widths? I know photo’s can misrepresent reality but every single photo I’ve seen make the lanes look incredibly narrow.

    1. Except, Real Matthew, that the $1.4 billion Waterview scheme has not been put there to benefit PT/Walking/Cycling. If these modes benefit at all, it will be pure spin-off rather than intent. It will do precisely nothing to help rail services, and due to the priority-funding it has received (100% NZTA funding, prioritised far above things like the CRL, 3rd main, NW busway etc) it is probably fair to say that it has hindered the progress of much-needed alternative schemes such as these which do not receive 100% NZTA funding if they get any funding at all, and are way down the pecking order.

      So entirely fair to call it “ironic” that many of the people coming to visit this massive piece of infrastructure to help cars and trucks should get there by using the mode of transport that is not helped at all by it, but the only mode that is recognised as being able to save Auckland from interminable car-saturation.

      It would be good to see you give a little recognition to the stark fact that Auckland’s historic bias toward road-provision has caused it to have much worse traffic-issues for a city of its modest size, than other comparable places round the world that have historically invested in good PT. Redressing this imbalance is what this blog is all about. Is that so hard for you to grasp?
      _ _ _ _ _

      Have tried to find lane widths in the tunnel but can’t see them specified anywhere. However the tunnel diameter is given as 13.1m, and if with a ruler you scale off this cross-section diagram http://www.nzta.govt.nz/assets/projects/waterview-tunnel/waterview-tunnel-cross-section.pdf and allow an appropriate margin in from the crash-barriers for the actual lane-marking, the width of all 3 lanes looks to be about 10.5m, hence ~3.5m each. This accords with similar lane widths in Wellington’s Terrace Tunnel (estimatable from Google aerial imaging at the entrances), but bear in mind the Terrace Tunnel is 2-way.

      1. Well, Aust-roads standards would surely dictate a minimum of 3.5m for those lanes. They’re certainly not going to be proposing 3.0m wide lanes as it would leave them open to law-suits galore after the first accident….

        1. Not in NZ are you going to have lawsuits for road crash damages; that’s why we have ACC… 3.5m for highway speed lanes would make sense; what’s a bit silly is when they try to insist on the same dimensions for an urban arterial (and wonder why everyone drives too fast…).

        2. NZTA’s own standards stipulate that at 80km/h the minimum lane width would be 3.25m, for a 100km/h road 3.5m.
          Most likely the tunnel effect (everything in the picture narrowing to a single point in the distance) is creating the optical illusion that the lanes are much narrower than they really are.

    2. They looked narrow to me when I walked through too but I haven’t got a lot of experience walking on motorways to compare with! Probably haven’t made them as wide as the speed limit is only going to be 80kmh.

    3. In terms of funding it is definitely PT vs cars. Unfortunately with the current government and almost every government before them, cars get almost every penny.

      1. Seeing as most people want to use their cars to get around; prioritising that method using their tax dollars rather than hindering it for the few seems entirely fair and reasonable

        1. “most people want to use their cars to get around”. You mean most people NEED to use etc and so on. Because this stupid government won’t see sense.
          Apparently we know better than London, Paris, Tokyo, New York who all have extensive PT ssytems. In fact every civilised city in the world does. We have flat earthers running the show in NZ (and commenting on here occasionally – yes the tiresome TRM, flat earther in chief – waaaah! I want my toy car, waaaah).

        2. Most people before 1955 got around using the trams but that didn’t stop the govt of the time forcing people not to. Things change and they can change again.

          Why shouldn’t they?

        3. Lesley, If you own a restaurant and the only thing you serve is chicken soup. Would it be fair and reasonable to conclude that the only thing your patrons wish to eat is chicken soup, because that is what they order?
          The huge growth in PT usage after the opening of significant PT projects would strongly suggest that if given a choice a lot more than just a “few” people would like to use PT.

  8. My (sarcastic) complements to the National Party for colour coordinating the three teddybears at the opening in the first picture: Blue suits, Blue ties, Blue ribbon, etc, for every one of them stale crusty white men. Certainly no women! No colour! No signs of life! Enjoy your hole in the ground! Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore, and Tigger?

    Couldn’t get much more “This is a National Party achievement for you, the tax-payer” if you tried…

    1. Of course, the tunnels should have been opened by the Governor- General. Ceremonial duties are a prime function of this office and it was not kind of Winnie the Pooh, Eeyore and Tigger to shut her out.

      They would have been better employed huddling in one of the tunnel labyrinths sorting out how to beat Auckland’s gridlock by immediately switching NZTA funds from ‘moar roads’ to an efficient public transport system as proposed by Mayor Goff and Auckland Transport.

      Altogether a lost opportunity……………………

    2. So which one is Eeyore, which is Tigger. I think we can all agree that the well built one is Winnie the Pooh.

      I vote that the PM is Eeyore – I can see a resemblance.

  9. “The Waterview Tunnel … will help unlock Auckland’s potential as a world class city and secure its future economic prosperity,” Mr Bridges says.

    Funnily enough that movie Field of Dreams was on TV not long ago. You know, “build it and they will come”. Not sure why I mentioned it but I just thought I would throw it in. Now that we have built the tunnel, we just have to wait above the entrance portal and the prosperity will come.

    Also I suppose this means that Auckland was not a world class city before. You are nothing without a big tunnel. Paris, Geneva, Vienna – all rubbish. No tunnel.

  10. did any saw there is a speed camera from the Southern end entrance heading to Highway 16.. it is slopping down, i bet you that speed camera will be the busy out of the country haha

          1. We could fund the CRL just from red light fines for cars at Queen/Customs and Quay/Queen. Cars stranded in the intersections every day impeding pedestrians because they have illegally entered the intersection with no clear exit. Never seen a bicycle stuck there.

    1. The actual date it opens for traffic is a secret as they dont want people queing for the tunnel before it opens.

      I suspect it will quietly open one night week after last walks and riding days are completed

    1. ha! Yes, I’ll have my money back, please, and can you put it back the way it was?

      Or maybe just convert the whole thing to a busway and cycleway?

  11. I have a spare ticket for the 11 o’clock ride on Friday morning. Let me know if you would like to have it.

  12. Can anyone answer why the ventilation system can’t handle a tunnel full of vehicles? We have been told that traffic signals will be operational to limit the number of vehicles in the tunnel. This seems ridiculous, and I have never seen such restrictions on any (decently designed) tunnel in my travels abroad.

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