The NZ Transport Agency says work started this morning to dismantle a well-known landmark on the Auckland motorway skyline - the launching gantry affectionately known as 'Big Blue' on the Newmarket Viaduct Replacement Project.
'Big Blue's done a brilliant job - its role in helping construct the new viaduct and remove the old one has been a key to the success of a complex and innovative project that has attracted attention and praise from around the world,' says the NZTA's State Highways manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker.
Mr Parker said the gantry's removal marked the end of heavy construction work on the project. Together with the recently completed Victoria Park Tunnel Road of National Significance, the new viaduct forms a safer and more efficient motorway link for people and freight to move through central Auckland.
The gantry – which weighs almost 860 tonnes and is 140 metres long - has been a prominent part of Newmarket's skyline for almost four years, working alongside a part of the Auckland motorway network that carries on average 160,000 vehicles daily – the busiest section of motorway in New Zealand.
'Using the launching gantry has allowed our project team to construct the new viaduct safely, quickly, and with minimum impact on the surrounding community, and without major disruptions for the tens of thousands of motorway drivers or the 55,000 vehicles using the surrounding streets each day,' Mr Parker says.
The gantry was first used in Hong Kong. It was shipped to New Zealand in 2004 to construct the Waiwera Viaducts on the Northern Gateway Toll Road, north of Auckland, before continuing its travels to Newmarket.
It was used first to lift concrete segments weighing an average of 70 tonnes in to place for the new southbound viaduct. The next stage involved the deconstruction of the old southbound viaduct and lowering its concrete segments 20 metres to the ground. The third and fourth stages involved construction of the new northbound viaduct, and the removal of the old one. In total, the gantry raised or lowered more than 900 segments of concrete.
'It's an amazing outcome to complete all that work on time and in a live motorway environment,' Mr Parker says. 'The use of 'Big Blue' is a reflection of the skills our partners at Newmarket have demonstrated throughout the project. We're also grateful for the support and co-operation we've had from drivers and the community, which has contributed to 'Big Blue's' winning performance.'
It will take four weeks to dismantle the launching gantry. It will be stored in sections in shipping containers until it is required for another project in New Zealand or overseas.
The Newmarket Viaduct Replacement Project is being undertaken by the NGA Newmarket Alliance of NZTA with its partners, Leighton Contractors, Fulton Hogan, VSL, URS, Beca, Boffa Miskell and Tonkin & Taylor and is due to be completed in December.