The NZ Transport Agency's new duplicate Mangere Bridge across Auckland's Manukau Harbour was officially opened today by the Prime Minister, Hon John Key.
The NZTA and its partners in the Manukau Harbour Crossing Alliance completed construction of the 650 metre-long bridge seven months ahead of schedule.
The $230M project, together with the existing bridge which opened in 1983, increases capacity on the Southwestern Motorway (SH20) to 10 lanes across the Manukau Harbour. There will be eight lanes for general traffic on the bridges and two shoulder lanes for buses.
At the ribbon cutting, the Prime Minister was accompanied by the Minister of Transport, Hon Steven Joyce, the Mayor of Auckland, John Banks, the Mayor of Manukau, Len Brown, and executives from the NZTA and the Alliance project team.
The NZTA’s chief executive, Geoff Dangerfield, welcomes completion of the duplicate bridge along what he describes as one of the country’s most important routes.
“The Southwestern Motorway is a vital link between central and south Auckland, and is used as the main gateway to New Zealand by those travelling to and from Auckland International Airport.” Mr Dangerfield says. “The additional traffic and bus lanes will reduce congestion, and shorten travel times for commuters, visitors and exporters who depend on travel reliability to get to the airport. Time savings of up to 20 minutes are expected for journeys between the CBD and the airport at peak.”
The early opening is also welcomed by organisers of the Rugby World Cup, who say that it is another sign that Auckland is on track for the tournament’s kick off in September 2011.
"With up to 85,000 visitors landing in New Zealand for the Rugby World Cup there will be no shortage of traffic to and from Auckland airport. This will make the journey much quicker and easier for all, at a time when we really need to make a great impression,” says Auckland's RWC 2011 Regional Steering Group Chair, Rachael Dacy.
There will be three motorway lanes each way between Walmsley Road and Queenstown Road. The duplicate bridge, however, has a fourth southbound lane dedicated to local traffic between the communities of Onehunga and Mangere Bridge. The existing bridge beside it will be refurbished to carry four northbound lanes.
The NZTA says that there is still work to complete the crossing before drivers enjoy the full benefits of the improvements. It is planned to shift the first two lanes of southbound traffic on to the new bridge early on Tuesday morning, 27 July, weather dependent. The existing bridge and the approaches will then be refurbished and finalised, with the entire motorway upgrade completed by the end of August.
Mr Dangerfield paid tribute to the Alliance team that constructed the duplicate bridge.
“It’s down to the skill, teamwork and determination of the NZTA and our Alliance partners – Fletchers, Beca and Higgins - that the bridge has been delivered ahead of schedule. I’d like to personally thank everyone involved who have clocked up over one million man hours since construction started back in March 2008,” he says.
Today’s opening ceremony included an open day to give the local community the opportunity to walk and cycle the new bridge before it opens to motorway traffic.
The Manukau Harbour Crossing project’s legacy also includes pathways for walkers and cyclists around the harbour, the distinctive blue and white cable bridge spanning the motorway to connect communities in Hillsborough and Onehunga, plans for a new footbridge over busy Onehunga Harbour Road, and the project’s site office at Mangere Bridge will be restored to a park again.
The Manual Harbour Crossing is part of the southern end of the Western Ring Route – a 48 kilometre alternative to SH1 running between Manukau and Albany via State Highways 20, 16 and 18. In late August, the NZTA plans to progressively open the southern end of the Western Ring Route – the new motorway that connects the Southwestern and Southern [SH1] motorways at Manukau City.
For more information visit www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/mhc(external link) or call 0800 SH20 MHX (0800 7420 649).