As the final stage of work to get the Victoria Park Tunnel ready for traffic nears completion, the NZ Transport Agency reminds drivers to plan their journeys to avoid motorway congestion through the central motorway junction in Auckland this coming weekend.
The $340m Victoria Park Tunnel project – which includes the tunnel and associated motorway improvements through St Marys Bay – is the first of seven roads of national significance identified by the Government to support economic prosperity to be completed. Its benefits include reduced congestion, gains in travel time, and safer and more reliable journeys.
Congestion is expected when essential work begins this Friday night (11 November) to safely link the tunnel to the State Highway 1 motorway to enable the NZTA to open two of tunnel’s three lanes on Monday, 14 November – three months earlier than planned.
The NZTA’s State Highways manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says the central motorway junction (Spaghetti junction) is the most heavily congested section of the city’s motorway network and delays are expected on both the state highway and surrounding arterial roads.
“We’ve timed this work for the weekend when traffic volumes are lighter, but given the strategic location of the junction our advice is to allow more time for travel and to chose an alternative route that by-passes central Auckland possible,” Mr Parker says.
Work is due to start at 10pm after Friday’s evening peak. All closures will be lifted and the two tunnel lanes opened by 5am the following Monday. The closures involve both the SH1 and the Northwestern (SH16) motorways:
Mr Parker says the final round of safety audits to test the tunnel’s operational and safety systems are almost complete. The weekend work will focus on reconstructing a small section of motorway. The work is weather dependent and if bad weather prevents its completion, the tunnel opening will be delayed.
“Around 60,000 vehicles will be using the tunnel daily we have to be confident that the tunnel is safe for all drivers before we open it,” Mr Parker says.
Mr Parker says that when the tunnel opens, the two northbound lanes on the Victoria Park viaduct will be closed and reconfigured to carry an additional two lanes of southbound traffic in the New Year.
“The first stage is to transfer those two lanes above the park to the two lanes running underneath it. People won’t get the full benefit of the tunnel in terms of driving improvements until March when motorway construction work through St Marys Bay is complete and we can open the tunnel’s third lane,” Mr Parker says.
Throughout the coming months, there will be an intensive summer season of works on Auckland’s motorways.
“We are doing everything we can to minimise disruptions by timing our work when traffic volumes are light and avoiding big Christmas events like Santa parades and carol concerts,” Mr Parker says. “Everything will be done to help keep drivers informed, and their critical support will help us deliver significant benefits, not just at Vic Park, but right across our network.”