Upgrade transforms Mt Victoria tunnel


An extensive upgrade of the 85-year-old Mt Victoria Tunnel in Wellington that started in April 2015 has been completed 14 months later.

The State Highway 1 tunnel, which was carved through rock in 1930 and 1931, has been transformed to include 21st Century tunnel safety technologies. To minimise the impact on traffic the tunnel was closed overnight from Sundays to Thursdays on 295 occasions to allow the safety upgrade to take place. The tunnel is now open 24 hours every day, apart from scheduled maintenance closures.

“We’d like to thank the local residents and Wellington motorists for their patience while we undertook the upgrade to this vital link in the Wellington region’s transport network,” Neil Walker, Wellington Highways Manager, NZ Transport Agency says.

To enable many of the new safety features, a huge amount of electronic communication, mechanical and electrical engineering has been undertaken. Most of the improvements are ‘behind the scenes’ in the tunnel infrastructure, but motorists will notice that they can continue listening to their radio due to the upgrade enabling the rebroadcast of 18 FM frequencies.

Conditions for driving through the tunnel have been improved with 1000 light-reflecting white panels beside the carriageway, a new paint palette and glowing ‘cat’s eye’ markers along the sides and centreline. The panels are fire-resistant, adding to the tunnel’s safety profile.

The cat’s eyes (delineators) are electronically programmed to pulse and strobe in sequence toward the exits in an emergency, guiding people safely out. The system installed in Mt Victoria Tunnel is a world-first use of delineators to this extent.

The tunnel has been repainted inside and out with a colour scheme that features  Mt Victoria Robin’s Egg Blue inside the portals and along the walkway, soft white on the lower walls and new carriageway wall panels, and black on the ceiling.

Mt Victoria Tunnel is a part of the highway route from Wellington Airport to the rest of the North Island as well as connecting the eastern suburbs to the central city and beyond.

The Mt Victoria Tunnel upgrade includes:

  • Lighting: Energy efficient LED 'intelligent' lighting for safer driving including:
    • Lights that dim and brighten at the portals in response to outdoor light 
    • The use of LED is a NZ Transport Agency first for state highway tunnels
    • Pedestrian/cyclist path: seismic strengthening, new asphalt surface, new handrails
  • Exterior portals: Outside slopes strengthened and concrete surfacing improved
  • Carriageway wall panels: Fire-resistant panels that reflect light to improve the ambient lighting level
  • Incident cameras: Pilot trial of thermal imaging cameras that ‘see’ through sunstrike and 
  • Emergency communications system includes:
    • Ability for Wellington Transport Operations Centre (WTOC) to send emergency messages to people through their car radios
    • Electronic cat’s eye markers on the road programmed to pulse and strobe in sequence toward the exits for emergency evacuation, a world-first use of this programming
    • Rapid, efficient response to emergencies programmed into the WTOC computer
  • An upgrade of software and systems at WTOC enables more efficient operation of the tunnel, channelled through a single telephony headset instead of multiple devices
  • Radio rebroadcast: currently 18 FM frequencies
  • Fire response: Fire hydrants linked to a hydrant booster adds to the current fire sprinkler 
  • Control rooms: Refurbishment inside and out, additional plant control room installed in Paterson St
  • Ventilation: Fans replaced or reconditioned.