Alice is all set for the rabbit hole
Forward motion for the huge tunnel boring machine Alice is to begin within days and those running the Waterview Connection job say its progress should not disrupt nearby residents.
The machine was formally launched last week and will spend a year heading south from Owairaka to Waterview before turning around to bore a second tunnel.
At its launch on Thursday the machine was fired up for a few ceremonial rotations of the drill.
While the motors driving it are remarkably quiet NZTA Auckland highways manager Tommy Parker says the noisy bit comes when it engages with the rock face.
‘‘But it’s not deafening and we don’t anticipate any inconvenience for local residents at all,’’ he says.
‘‘As we dug the trench we came through a thick layer of basalt rock and got into the softer rock underneath, now as we go forward that (harder) rock will form a cap that will protect the surface from any vibration, noise or settlement.’’ At the ceremony dignitaries including Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Auckland Mayor Len Brown were on hand to give ‘‘Alice’’ a sendoff.
But the honour of pressing the ignition went to South Auckland boy Branden Hall, 10, who won the competition to name the giant machine.
The moment represented a significant event in New Zealand’s infrastructure history – more than 50 years after the idea of a western ring route to link the Northwestern and Southwestern motorways was conceived.
‘‘Auckland has for decades had a plan to have the city better connected and it’s all been done a bit piecemeal, so this is a significant step for- ward,’’ Mr Brownlee says.
And despite census data showing growth in the city is not as fast as thought it is still critical to proceed with major projects like the Waterview Connection, he says.
‘‘I take the view that that sort of information is interesting but if we actually have the infrastructure it makes life easier for people and we will be ahead of the curve when we do get that population growth.’’
Mr Brown says the western ring route has been part of the city’s thinking since the 1950s so it was good to be here almost ‘‘70 years down the track’’.
‘‘It’s the first of three tunnel boring machines I would like to see used in Auckland, I’d like to recycle it into the City Rail Link and the second harbour crossing.’’
The machine will bore two 2.4km tunnels, both wide enough for three lanes of traffic in each direction.
It will spend the next year heading north at depths of up to 45 metres before being spun around for the return journey.
As it progresses
will install more than 24,000 precast concrete segments to line the tunnels.
Drilling in earnest will begin in the next week once final preparations are made.
The tunnel opens in 2017.
Big moment: Transport Minister Gerry Brownlee and Branden Hall, 10, who won the competition to name the machine, get ready to push the button to fire it up.
Haere ra: Kids from Waterview Primary were on hand to launch ‘‘Alice’’.
Go to aucklandcityharbour news.co.nz to see more photos from the ceremony and click on Latest Edition to see a video clip of Waterview Primary pupils performing a waiata to commemorate the launch of the tunnel boring machine.