The historic Rob Roy Hotel, being protected by the NZ Transport Agency as part of the Victoria Park Tunnel project in central Auckland, will be returned next Tuesday and Wednesday (12 and 13 April) to the exact spot it was built on 125 years ago. Only now, that spot is on the roof of the motorway tunnel.
The NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Tommy Parker, says the return trip will be a reversal of last year's two-day, 44-metre crawl out of the path of the tunnel construction.
"The only real difference is that while the building was pushed all the way last year, it will be pulled for approximately half the distance on its return trip. The jacking sledges will then be lifted by crane to the rear of the building so that it can be pushed to its final destination."
"The hotel's an old lady, and next week's move will be a careful and slow befitting her age, and will take at least two days," says Mr Parker.
The 1885/86 built hotel, which is owned by the NZ Transport Agency, will be restored and become the focal point of a new public square – the Rob Roy Plaza - at the intersection of Franklin Road and Victoria Street West in Freemans Bay. The plaza will be completed by the time of the Rugby World Cup.
Mr Parker says that while the future use of the building is still to be confirmed, it is almost certain to include a hospitality business which continues its tradition as a meeting place for the community.
Work last year by the Victoria Park Alliance to prepare the Rob Roy for its double move involved structural strengthening of the building and providing a new foundation on which it will move.
The building will slide on four 40-metre long runway beams constructed parallel to Franklin Road. It will be gently muscled along the runway beams by a series of hydraulic rams - each stroke of the rams gently and slowly pushing or pulling the building forward 1.8 metres.
Mr Parker says as with last year's move, the biggest risk on the day will be any ground movement below the runway beams as the Rob Roy moves along them. "A considerable amount of the time involved in the move is therefore monitoring any variations in the ground levels and adjusting the hydraulic flat jacks which keep it level."
Mr Parker says the proposal to move the building presented exceptional engineering challenges because of the age of the hotel, which was built of brick and mortar without reinforcing.
"There were people who said it could not be done, that the building should be torn down," he adds. "But while there are still challenges ahead, we are confident that the Rob Roy will survive its return trip."
The move has been designed with the help of Wellington company Dunning Thornton Consultants which was responsible for moving the Museum Hotel to make room for Te Papa.
The Victoria Park Tunnel is one of seven roads of national significance identified by the Government as essential to New Zealand's economic prosperity. It will be the first completed, in early 2012. The motorway through St Marys Bay is being widened by one lane in each direction. This, together with the tunnel for three lanes of northbound traffic and reconfiguration of the existing viaduct for four southbound lanes, will remove the last remaining bottleneck on the motorway network through central Auckland.
The government has identified seven essential state highways projects that are linked to New Zealand’s economic prosperity. Called the roads of national significance, or RoNS for short, the NZTA is charged with substantially completing this programme of state highway improvements within the next 10 years. The RoNS programme represents one of New Zealand’s biggest ever infrastructure investments.
The seven RoNS projects are based around New Zealand's five largest population centres. The focus is on moving people and freight between and within these centres more safely and efficiently. Other RoNS may be added in future but currently from north to south the seven projects are: Puhoi to Wellsford - SH1, Completing the Western Ring Route, Auckland - SH16 and SH20, Victoria Park Tunnel, Auckland - SH1, Waikato Expressway - SH1, Tauranga Eastern Link - SH2, Wellington Northern Corridor - SH1, Christchurch Motorways. More information is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/rons