The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) will start work on 9 May 2011 to upgrade the Mt Victoria Tunnel's operating systems.
The NZTA’s acting highways and network operations manager Mark Owen says the tunnel’s fire fighting systems will be upgraded and earthquake strengthening will be carried out.
Mr Owen says the upgrade will bring the tunnel’s systems up to modern standards and extend its life. Work is expected to be completed in early 2012, and the tunnel will remain open during Rugby World Cup games being held in the capital.
“The Mt Victoria Tunnel is a vital transport link for the people of Wellington and a key part of the country’s state highway network. The tunnel is now 80 years old and it’s time for an upgrade,” says Mr Owen. “Once completed, it will be safer and more resilient in the event of a fire or earthquake.”
Mr Owen says the tunnel will be closed overnight between 8pm and 6am five nights per week from Sundays to Thursdays, for work to take place. Closure information will be published on the project website and every Monday in the Dominion Post, and advertised on radio.
“This is important work and it can’t be done when the tunnel is in use, so to minimise disruption to motorists and local residents we’ll be doing the work overnight, and putting clearly marked diversion routes in place. We are also trying to minimise noise and disturbance for locals by timing noisy and dusty work earlier in the evenings where possible.
“It’s essential the upgrade is done efficiently. Closing the tunnel five nights a week is the best way to do this without affecting peak time traffic flows in and out of the city. We appreciate it’s a big adjustment for everyone who uses the tunnel, and we’ll be working hard to ensure these changes go smoothly as have the Terrace Tunnel closures”
Two alternative routes are available – one via Newtown and another around the Bays. As the Terrace Tunnel will also be closed overnight in conjunction with the Mt Victoria work, anyone who would normally travel through both tunnels should consider using the Bays route as this is expected to be quicker.
The needs of pedestrians and cyclists have also been taken into account. For pedestrians, free public transport will be provided, using free buses after 8pm between Pirie St and Hataitai on the No 2 Miramar bus, by showing a specially issued free bus card. A shuttle will operate between Dufferin Street and Tapiri St when buses are not operating. Cyclist diversion routes have been identified that follow the vehicle diversion routes either through Newtown or around the Bays.
The upgrade will also involve some minor modifications to the detour routes to minimise potential congestion points.
Mr Owen says the NZTA is grateful to the public for their patience and understanding during this important upgrade, and thanked the Wellington City Council for their support in accommodating the traffic changes, and the Mt Victoria, Hataitai and Netwown Residents Associations for their valuable feedback on these changes.
The upgrade is to be carried out by the Wellington Tunnels Alliance, a consortium including the NZTA, Leighton Contractors, AECOM and SKM.
More information on the upgrade project, diversion routes, pedestrian and cyclist travel, and tunnel closures can be found on the project website at www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/mt-victoria-tunnel(external link)