Thousands walk through new Waterview Tunnel
Jun 20, 2017
Tens of thousands of people turned out to view Auckland's 2.4km, $1.4 billion Waterview Tunnel on Sunday.
An opening ceremony and ribbon cutting - attended by Prime Minister Bill English - started at 10.30am, with thousands of pedestrians and cyclists - who booked the event out within hours - making their way through the tunnel.
English addressed media and spectators at the opening ceremony and paid tribute to all those who had worked hard to bring the project to life.
"This a very exciting day for Auckland," English said.
It has been 60 years in the making and there are many other major projects in the pipeline. I know the public will really appreciate it, and I hope they'll have a real sense of ownership with this next step.
Transport Minister Simon Bridges touted the tunnel as the biggest change to Auckland’s roading network since the opening of the Harbour Bridge in 1959.
He too acknowledged workers at the opening ceremony.
"We really need to thank the workers, some 11,000 people have worked on this tunnel - 1800 a day at its peak," Bridges said.
After the ceremony, thousands piled through the entrance of the tunnel as Auckland mayor Phil Goff greeted the excited crowd at the entrance.
One spectator said it was a fabulous experience and a great piece of engineering. When asked why he wanted to be one of the first to walk through he said: "I just had to, it's a part of Auckland history."
The tunnel and associated ring road will connect Auckland's northwestern and southwestern motorways.
They are the final links in the 48km Western Ring Route, which is expected to reduce inner-city traffic by offering an alternative to the Harbour Bridge that skirts the Waitemata Harbour.
Construction kicked off in 2012 and excavation traditions dating back to early mining days had been carried out in the process - the naming of major machinery, for one.
A state-of-the-art boring machine dubbed Alice removed 800,000 cubic metres of earth, enough to fill 320 Olympic-sized swimming pools, as part of the tunnel's construction.
Alice was named by local school children after Alice in Wonderland, due to their shared propensity for subterranean exploration and was 87m in length.
Dennis the gantry, capable of hoisting concrete beams weighing 65 tonnes, was named after a project worker who passed away from cancer before the tunnel's completion.
Inside the tunnel there is enough wiring to stretch from Auckland to Waiouru, and the scale of its paint job could cover Auckland Airport three times over.
The tunnels are the longest road tunnels in New Zealand – the Lyttleton road tunnel at 1.97km previously held the record.
Construction included laying almost five km of drainage pipes, installing 104 flame traps, 4000 lights, 62 ventilation fans, 400 km or 270 tonnes of cabling and wiring, and five deluge storage tanks each containing 250,000 litres of water for fire control.