Auckland's historic Jacobs Ladder staircase in St Marys Bay will reopen next Wednesday (31 August) after being closed since March 2010 for work associated with the NZ Transport Agency's Victoria Park Tunnel project.
Opening at the same time is the staircase to Beaumont Street section of a new walkway beside the State Highway 1 motorway at the bottom of the St Marys Bay cliffs.
Both the Jacobs Ladder staircase and the walkway will ultimately connect to a new footbridge being built across the motorway from the cliffs to Westhaven Drive. The truss or framework of the bridge has been installed and it will open early next year after the decking and cladding have been installed.
The upgrade of Jacobs Ladder was a joint NZTA and Auckland Council project.
"We replaced old wooden steps with metal ones, to bring them up to the same standard as the new walkway and foot bridge," says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker. ""They will be stronger and also safer because they will also be included in the CCTV surveillance of the area."
Jacobs Ladder provides a vital connecting link between the Western Bays, Victoria Park and the vibrant new waterfront area, says Waitemata Local Board chair Shale Chambers. "We are delighted to see the staircase reopen and that this historic pathway is still an important part of the Victoria Park area."
Jacobs Ladder was originally built in the 1800s to provide access down the steep St Marys Bay cliffs to the Waitemata Harbour foreshore, and a was once the most direct route between Ponsonby and wharves in St Marys Bay that were used by cutters and whalers in the 1800s and ferries later.
The staircase was also the main access to HMNZS Ngapona, base of the Naval Volunteer Reserve Unit, from 1925 until 2007. The unit's headquarters at the base of the St Marys Bay cliffs were demolished two years later to make way for motorway widening as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project.
"In recent years the stairs have been well used by commuters walking to and from work in the Auckland CBD and by runners and walkers as part of their keep-fit regimes and we're delighted to be able to return this popular route back to the community," Mr Parker says.
The name "Jacobs Ladder" is biblical, referring to Jacob's vision of a ladder leading from earth to heaven. In naval terms, a Jacobs Ladder is a portable ladder made of rope or metal and used primarily to board ship.
Upgrading Jacobs Ladder is one of a series of community-based projects associated with the Victoria Park Tunnel project, which will be the first of the Government's seven roads of national significance to open to traffic. The first lanes of the tunnel will be opened to northbound-traffic in November ahead of schedule. In January the existing Victoria Park viaduct will be reconfigured to carry four lanes of southbound traffic
Victoria Park - together with the construction of a new motorway viaduct at nearby Newmarket - will ease congestion through central Auckland, make journeys more reliable for motorists and freight carriers, and improve safety on the busiest section of the city's motorway network.