This week NZTA held a briefing for commercial operators on the upcoming opening of the key Waterview Tunnel link between SH20 and SH16. A critical and long awaited piece in the wider Auckland area roading strategy, the tunnels have been part of the overall vision as far back as the 1960s. Their commissioning opens up a direct motorway connection between the South Western to North Western motorways, and for the first time there will be a viable north south alternative in the event SH1 is closed through Auckland City.
The two, 2.4 kilometre long tunnels have three lanes each and a maximum speed limit of 80km/h. The reason for the speed limitation is because of the roading design and to reduce the speed differential between trucks, buses and cars, so improving safety.
Any vehicle requiring a Dangerous Goods placard is prohibited from using the tunnels and can use the designated Great North Rd, Blockhouse Bay Rd, Tiverton St, New Windsor Rd and Maioro St alternative route. The alternative route is clearly marked for use by prohibited vehicles and when the tunnels are be closed
The tunnels will be gazetted as HPMV routes and currently the Agency is working with enforcement agencies to ensure the alternative route is also gazetted at times when the tunnels are closed.
One of the key areas raised at the meeting by NZTA representatives was over height loads. Magic eye indicators and electronic signage will alert drivers of an issue in time for them to take an escape ramp. Should the driver choose to ignore the warning and continue on, another set of warning alarms would be tripped and barrier arms would automatically close the tunnel.
So, operators beware.
A CVIU site, including weighing facilities has been set up at the Great North Rd end of the tunnels.
A number of safety systems, including a water deluge system and smoke extraction system to be activated in the case of fire, are in place. There are numerous escape tunnels connecting the two traffic tunnels to allow vehicle occupants to exit vehicles to reach safety if necessary.
The never-ending project to get Auckland moving.
The meeting sparked a number of comments and questions on the project and wider network.
Some operators were concerned at the viability of using Tiverton Rd as part of the emergency / alternative route considering traction issues a steep incline on the road poses in the wet. Likewise the presence of ramp merging lights at the northern portal and the potential for queuing back into the tunnel also raised eyebrows.
On issues pertaining to the wider network, NZTA representative Mr???? said that other projects like the widening of SH1 from Wiri to Papakura and the upcoming SH18 to SH1 link at Upper Harbour Highway / Constellation Dr were on track and due for completion between 2019 and 2021 respectively, while it was hoped the new East / West link between Mt Wellington and SH20 at Neilson St would be started in 2018.
The meeting was more than surprised however to learn that there are no plans to widen SH 1 at the Mt Wellington interchange at the current time, and that this last two lane bottleneck on the inner network was set to remain for some time.