Drivers can start using the Auckland's Victoria Park Tunnel in central Auckland this November, months earlier than planned as the NZ Transport Agency's $340m project to ease motorway congestion in the central city area heads towards an early finish.
The opening of two of the three lanes in the 450 metre-long tunnel in November is three months earlier than originally planned. The entire project, including the widening of State Highway 1 through St Marys Bay and the reconfiguration of the existing Victoria Park viaduct to carry four southbound lanes of traffic, is due to be completed next March, two months ahead of schedule.
"This is a very important project for Auckland, and we're delighted that we can start delivering the first stage of benefits in terms of more reliable and safer journeys for drivers months earlier than we had planned," says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker.
Mr Parker says the key to the tunnel's early opening is the planned closure next month of the Wellington Street on-ramp, which links the central CBD with the northbound lanes of SH1. During the seven month-long closure, a new on-ramp will be built and construction of the southern portal of the tunnel completed.
"There is still much work to be done, including fitting out the tunnel, but the closure will give our project partners the time to bring forward their construction timetable above ground and complete critical works," he says.
The Wellington Street on-ramp will be closed from 2 May. Mr Parker says that the closure of the same on-ramp for three and a half month last year did not have a significant impact on CBD streets, and motorway traffic flows actually improved.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is the first of the Government's seven roads of national significance (RoNS), to start construction. It will support economic growth by reducing congestion, improving safety and journey times, and increasing the capacity of State Highway 1 between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and Newmarket, one of the country's busiest freight and business routes.
The Project includes:
The Victoria Park Tunnel Project is located at the northern end of the central motorway junction. At the southern end, a fourth southbound motorway lane from the Newmarket Viaduct to the Greenlane interchange will open in May as part of the Newmarket Connection: Viaduct Replacement Project.
"Together these two projects will help aleviate frustrating delays and holdups on this section of Auckland's motorway network," Mr Parker says.
Last week, the NZTA announced that it planned to open the Hobsonville Deviation/Brigham Creek extension motorway project six months ahead of schedule. The project, in north-west Auckland, is a section of the Western Ring Route motorway alternative to SH1.