Auckland motorists are experiencing daily the benefits of the Waterview Connection, with its first year of operation delivering more resilience and reliability for journeys across the Auckland transport network.
Since the twin tunnels opened on July 2, 2017, an average of 62,000 vehicles a day or nearly 22 million vehicles have driven through the twin tunnels in the last year, says the NZ Transport Agency’s Director of Regional Relationships Steve Mutton.
“Auckland drivers have spent the last year working out how the Waterview Tunnel works best for them. The greatest benefit is that it’s made most journeys more reliable, even for drivers not using the tunnels.”
The tunnels were the biggest in a series of projects to create the Western Ring Route and complete the strategic motorway network. They connect SH1, SH16 and SH18 in the north and west with the CBD and SH20 and SH20A to the airport and SH1 in the south.
“Now it’s possible to travel in almost every directions across the city and have choices. Waterview has helped make journey times more predictable and reliable. It’s also taken pressure off local roads, improving journey times for shorter trips and public transport,” says Mr Mutton.
Of the 62,000 vehicles using the tunnels each day, about 2,000 more vehicles go north than south. The Tunnels are busiest on weekdays when numbers often exceed 80,000. The weekly average is about 432,500 vehicles while the monthly average is close to 2 million.
“One of the key aims with the Waterview Connection was to provide a second route through Auckland, bypassing the city centre, and reducing the reliance on State Highway 1 and the Auckland Harbour Bridge.”
“Drivers have a choice between State Highway 1 and the Western Ring Route and that’s helping to rebalance the city’s travel demands and is making both the motorway system and local roads more efficient. The redistribution of demand also allows the motorway system to more effectively absorb incidents such as breakdowns or crashes during busy periods.”
The redistribution is contributing to journey time reliability for motorists on SH1, though these benefits are currently affected by road works and speed restrictions north and south of the CBD.
On the Northern Motorway (SH1), before Waterview opened it took on average 33–43 minutes from Silverdale to the CBD in the morning. Now it takes an average 33 minutes.
On the Southern Motorway (SH1), the journey from Papakura to the city during the morning peak used to take on average 46–70 minutes. Now, it takes an average 56 minutes.
On the Northwestern motorway (SH16) the journey from Westgate to the CBD in the morning used to take 21–32 minutes. Now it takes 28 minutes.
The route from the CBD to the airport before Waterview was through residential areas on Gillies Ave and Manukau Road. It took 24–32 minutes. Going via the tunnel averages 26 minutes.
As well as providing an alternative route for motorway travellers, the Waterview Connection has also taken pressure off key local routes to the CBD.
Pre–Waterview, Sandringham Road to the CBD in the morning took 7–13 minutes. Now the same journey takes 8 minutes. Leaving the CBD in the afternoon used to take 9–12 minutes. Now it takes 8 minutes.
Dominion Road to the CBD used to take 11–17 minutes. Now it takes 11 minutes. The return journey in the afternoon used to take 14–17 minutes and now takes 13 minutes.
Mt Eden Road to the CBD in the morning took 10–16 minutes. Now it takes 12. Afternoon travel from the CBD was 13–16 minutes and now takes 14 minutes.
The journey reliability is despite Auckland’s growing population and vehicle numbers. The city’s population grew by 42,700 in the year to June 2017, while the total number of registered cars in Auckland increases by about 25,000 a year or just under 500 a week.
Around the Waterview tunnels, the addition of a 3.4km safe accessible shared path that connects with the northwestern cycleway alongside SH16 has benefitted the 38% of Aucklanders who ride a bike. There have been 58,658 cycle trips recorded on the Waterview path since the end of July.
“People walking and cycling on short trips to work, school and the shops is good for their health and the environment. Every person walking or cycling is potentially one less car sitting in traffic.”
“Auckland is a great place to live, work and play. The city is growing fast, but the Waterview tunnel is providing better connections and choices to keep Auckland moving,” says Mr Mutton.