After seventy years, Auckland’s motorway network is finally finished.
In July 1953 the first section of motorway in Auckland was opened between Ellerslie-Panmure Highway and Mt Wellington Highway. The final stage opens to traffic this week with the completion of the motorway part of the Northern Corridor Improvements project.
Aucklanders are one step closer to a more resilient state highway network as the direct link from State Highway 1 (SH1) to State Highway 18 (SH18) is set to open early next week.
One of the final stages of the Northern Corridor Improvements project, the two-kilometre link between SH1 and SH18, including an underpass also officially completes the Western Ring Route, providing a seamless and robust alternative to SH1.
“Reliable journey times for people and freight will be a bi-product of the work that has taken place across multiple years and projects to improve the resilience and performance of Auckland’s transport network, protecting our infrastructure against the elements and providing a choice for people who need to get around Auckland” says Stephen Collett, Regional Manager Transport Services Waka Kotahi.
“The direct motorway link from SH18 to SH1 which was opened last month has already established a seamless transition for motorists travelling from the west to the north and the opening of this underpass will do the same in the other direction.”
The modern motorway network is thankfully quite different from what was proposed in the 1950’s and 60’s. Back then the plans also included proposals like the Eastern Motorway, a motorway down Dominion Rd, a Henderson motorway, a bridge from Point Chev to Kauri Point then up to around Constellation Dr. Interestingly, the SH18 connection that has just been completed was never on these old plans.
Some of those old plans even called for fully ringing the city centre in motorways, including an elevated motorway down Quay and Fanshawe streets.
The completion of the SH1-18 link is a big achievement and it’s somewhat fitting that the project that delivered this final section of motorway in Auckland was perhaps also the most multi-modal project we’ve seen. Last year it delivered the Northern Busway extension from Constellation Station through to Albany Station and parallel walking and cycling paths are also due to open soon.
If all of our previous motorway projects had also delivered first-class public transport and active mode infrastructure at the same time, our city would have a lot more options in how we all get around. Notably, the need for alternatives was even called out by the original planners of our motorway system.
While there are some other motorway projects around, such as the Puhoi to Warkworth project which is due for completion later this year, this should really be the last motorway project within the urban area and it is critical that the focus shifts to how we deliver the missing public transport and active modes. Only by building complete networks will we truly give people viable, congestion free options.
Given we’ve only really been working on the rapid transit system for the last 15-20 years, let’s hope it doesn’t take another 50 to complete it.