Construction of the Victoria Park motorway tunnel in central Auckland is reaching a critical stage, and the NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists that the Wellington Street on-ramp will be closed for approximately three months so that supporting walls for the southern approach to the tunnel can be built.
The on-ramp – which provides access from the Auckland CBD and Ponsonby to State Highway 1 for traffic heading north across the Auckland Harbour Bridge - will close on Monday, 23 August. The NZTA says it plans to have it re-opened at the end of November.
“We plan to get in there, get the work done, and be gone as quickly as possible to avoid potential impacts on the transport network over the Christmas rush,” says the NZTA’s State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker.
Mr Parker adds that the temporary closure – which will be backed by an extensive communications campaign to keep drivers informed - is the best and safest option for drivers and project workers.
“The only viable alternative is to do the work at weekends only, which would require closing the on-ramp for 40 consecutive weekends,” he adds. “The three month closure is the least fuss, most gain option.”
The proximity of the work to live motorway lanes means the walls can be built safely only with the on-ramp closed, and Mr Parker says the decision to temporarily close Wellington Street follows six months of planning and consultation,
“Construction of the tunnel reached a milestone earlier this week with the completion of the tunnel walls within Victoria Park, and it is now critical to progress tunnel construction outside the park to avoid impacts on the traffic network at the time of the Rugby World Cup,” he adds.
The Victoria Park Tunnel project is one of the seven roads of national significance and construction of the 450 metre-long tunnel will eliminate the last serious traffic bottleneck on the central motorway junction between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the Newmarket Viaduct.
The motorway between the Wellington Street overbridge and Victoria Park is being widened from four to seven lanes. The tunnel will take three northbound traffic lanes, and the existing Victoria Park viaduct will be reconfigured to carry four southbound lanes. SH1 through St Marys Bay is being widened by one lane in each direction to 10 lanes in total.
Mr Parker says drivers most affected by the Wellington Street closure are people from the North Shore who work in the CBD and drive home between 4pm and 6pm. The NZTA will start its communications campaign on 1 August to ensure they have alternative choices to get home.
“Once on the motorway commuters will get an improved run because there will be no traffic merging from Wellington Street.”
The NZTA will promote commuting options through advertising, billboards, posters and a website being established for the three-month closure.
“Building a new section of motorway through the centre of a city is a challenging project,” says Mr Parker. “We will be doing everything we can to minimise disruption and delay.”