There has been an overwhelming community response to the invitation from the NZ Transport Agency to take a once-in-a-lifetime walk through the Victoria Park Tunnel before it opens to traffic and the event is fully booked out.
The walk will be held this Saturday, 29 October, after the motorway tunnel running underneath Victoria Park is officially opened by the Prime Minister, John Key.
Seventeen thousand people have registered for the walk – the maximum number that can be managed safely inside the 450 metre-long tunnel, says the NZTA’s Auckland and Northland State Highways Manager, Tommy Parker.
“The response and interest is fantastic, and we’re delighted that so many people want to visit the project,” he says. “Constructing something the size of this tunnel in the middle of a city is never easy, and the support we’ve had from the community has made a challenging job a whole lot easier. Opening up the tunnel for Saturday’s walk is a small way of saying ‘thank you” to Aucklanders.”
Mr Parker says the NZTA has had to ask people to pre-register for the walk for critical safety reasons.
“The only practical way to get this many people through the tunnel safely is via stairs that would normally be used only in an emergency. These are steep, which means the numbers coming and going from the tunnel any one time must be managed. If people have not registered, regrettably, they will not be able to do the walk”
The open day will also include displays, a ‘walk of art’ through the reinstated Victoria Park, demonstrations at the new Victoria Park skate park, food stalls under the viaduct, and entertainment.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is one of seven Roads of National Significance, identified by Government as key to supporting New Zealand’s economic growth. The project involves upgrading State Highway 1 between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Auckland’s central motorway junction, significantly improving trip times on one of the country’s busiest freight and commuting routes.
The completed tunnel will increase motorway capacity across Victoria Park, which is the last major traffic bottleneck on Auckland’s central motorway network. It will carry three lanes of northbound traffic, while the existing Victoria Park flyover will be reconfigured to carry southbound traffic.
Mr Parker says northbound traffic will be diverted from the flyover to the tunnel in early November, after intensive work is completed just north of the Nelson Street off ramp to connect the northbound lanes to the tunnel approach. Drivers are being urged to use alternative routes north, including the newly completed State Highway 16 to 18 link between Westgate and Albany, during these works.