Tunnel tour draws thousands
Tens of thousands of people walked through Auckland’s 2.4km, $1.4 billion Waterview Tunnel on Sunday.
Prime Minister Bill English opened the tunnel with a ribbon cutting ceremony before thousands of pedestrians and cyclists, who booked the event out within hours, made their way through the impressive piece of infrastructure.
‘‘This a very exciting day for Auckland,’’ English said.
‘‘It has been 60 years in the making and there are many other major projects in the pipeline. I know the public will really appreciate it, and I hope they’ll have a real sense of ownership with this next step.’’
The massive roading project was earmarked to open at Easter, but holdups due to a fault with the tunnel’s jet fan and water extraction pump system have meant vehicles won’t be allowed in until early July.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges touted the tunnel as the biggest change to Auckland traffic flows since the opening of the Harbour Bridge. He too acknowledged workers at the opening ceremony.
‘‘We really need to thank the workers, some 11,000 people have worked on this tunnel - 1800 a day at its peak,’’ Bridges said.
After the ceremony, thousands began to pile through the entrance of the tunnel as Auckland mayor Phil Goff greeted the excited crowd at the entrance.
One spectator said it was a fabulous experience and a great piece of engineering.
When asked why he wanted to be one of the first to walk through he said: ‘‘I just had to, it’s a part of Auckland history.’’
The tunnel and associated ring road will connect Auckland’s northwestern and southwestern motorways.
They are the final links in the 48km Western Ring Route, which is expected to reduce inner-city traffic by offering an alternative to the Harbour Bridge, that skirts the Waitemata Harbour.
The tunnels are the longest road tunnels in New Zealand – the Lyttleton road tunnel at 1.97km previously held the record.
The NZTA said while the tunnels are not designed to remove congestion altogether, the Western Ring Route as a whole will provide a better balance of traffic flows across the entire network and will help remove cars from local roads.
It will also provide more transport options including bus lanes and walking and cycling connections.
The Waterview tunnel was officially opened with a public walk through on Sunday. Simon Bridges