Untangling Auckland's Victoria Park bottleneck

A start on Auckland’s long-awaited Victoria Park Tunnel has been fast-tracked 10 months to January next year and the Transport Agency has already called for expressions of interest.

Nat_roads_3.jpgCompletion of the project, which is unlikely before 2014, will create three northbound lanes on State Highway 1 from the central motorway junction towards the harbour bridge, allowing the existing four lanes on the Victoria Park Viaduct to be used by southbound traffic.

Transport Minister Steven Joyce says this will greatly ease congestion for the 100,000  cars, trucks and buses that use the route each day.

“The current viaduct is a huge chokepoint for the network. Adding a tunnel for northbound traffic will double the capacity of this section of the motorway,” he says.

“The completion of the route is essential to the continued growth and economic development in the Auckland region. It will relieve congestion and improve safety on a route that is strategically important to the region’s future.

“Its construction will also bring significant benefits to the region over the next three years through increased jobs in the construction sector and subsequent economic growth.”

The Victoria Park Viaduct was built 47 years ago. It has not been retrofitted, has problems such as “concrete cancer”, and was not designed to carry today’s traffic volumes. 

The cut-and-cover tunnel will be the Auckland roading network’s first and will cost nearly $1 million a metre – $430 million for 440 metres.

It has been described as “a costly lesson” by Auckland’s New Zealand Herald. An editorial in the paper stated the viaduct lanes became hopelessly inadequate decades ago and were now a daily reminder of the dangers of shortsighted transport planning.

The editorial said that thanks to the recession, the tunnel would provide a solution to the daily traffic snarls. But it added this critical comment: “A cut-and-cover tunnel construction under reclaimed land is a fearfully expensive alternative to simply widening the viaduct as originally planned. But for some organised opposition to a wider structure across the park, the bottleneck could have been relieved years ago.

“The expense at Victoria Park may be less of a concern when the economy needs the boost, but by…the project’s completion date the country could still be counting the cost with interest.

“By then, at least, the bottleneck and its dangers should be a distant memory for motorists. Let’s hope the lessons linger longer in the minds of those whose transport planning needs to take note of where people want to go.”

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Contractor Vol.33  No.5  June 2009
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