Inside NZ’s longest road tunnel
The subterranean link in Auckland’s $2.4 billion Western Ring Route - a streamlined skirting of the Waitemata Harbour - is physically complete.
The 2.4km Waterview Connection is New Zealand’s longest road tunnel and has been decked out with 140,000 litres of paint and illuminated by 4000 lightbulbs.
Its sprinkler system can reliably deliver a 270 litre per second deluge, in case of fire.
But drivers eager for an alternative to clogged SH1 must wait until April next year before going through the country’s largest ever roading project.
Linking State Highways 20 and 16, the pair of tunnels will help connect south Auckland with the North Shore as part of a 48km ring route to avoid the CBD.
Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon said, at a media open day on Wednesday, all that was left to do was a thorough testing of each piece of equipment that played a part in the tunnel’s smooth running.
Glibbon said the $1.4 billion tunnels will ‘‘definitely’’ see the northwestern and southwestern get busier, but that drivers already frustrated by congestion on those routes shouldn’t worry.
In fact, their completion is what many of Auckland’s high- way widening projects have been gearing up for.
‘‘We’re widening the highways to accommodate the increased traffic,’’ Glibbon said.
He said the ring route would be an economic boon, through ‘‘adding a whole heap more capacity to the Auckland roading network’’.
‘‘It’’s a route for heavy vehicles to avoid motorway junctions and the Harbour Bridge when heading from Northland down to the Waikato,’’ he said.
‘‘Also, people landing at Auckland Airport will be able to travel by motorway straight into the CBD.’’
When the tunnels open, drivers will see a strategically daubed two-tone interior; magnolia below and black above.
Glibbon said that the magnolia colour was specially designed for tunnels to helps drivers’ eyes adjust to the light. The black roof would deter rising eyes getting distracted by machinery, he explained.
The curved tunnels will each contain three lanes of traffic and sit on a five per cent gradient; the road goes round a bend and up a slope as it nears the Great North Road interchange.
The new tunnels will create a direct motorway route from Auckland airport to central Auckland.