I think it says something that more people will have gone to public open days for the Waterview Tunnel before it opens to traffic, than watched the All Blacks beat the Lions at Eden Park this weekend. Capacity may have something to do with it. Eden Park holds 50,000 people, while over 60,000 will have gone through the tunnel over five open days (extended from the original three due to overwhelming demand, over 40,000 tickets went in a few hours), but it’s still pretty impressive.
As is the $1.4bn extension of State Highway 20, which is effectively a huge urban regeneration project which happens to involve some tarmac and a rather large hole in the ground (at 2.4km, the longest tunnel in New Zealand). New parks have been created, cycleways built, and wetlands restored. The Well Connected alliance of companies and the NZ Transport Agency have left a lasting legacy to this often overlooked part of the city.
The open day was free and very well organised, a once only opportunity to take a walk legally and safely along a motorway.
New Zealand, particularly in Auckland, is very good at building decorative motorways and Waterview is no exception. The noise barriers are attractive, concrete surfaces are varied, the central barrier is rock rather than concrete filled, and there is artwork at the southern tunnel portal telling the story of two lovers who escaped underground.
Inside you’ll find all the safety features you’d expect in a modern tunnel.
The public was about 3km, going along one tunnel, through a connecting service link, and back out the other tunnel. As you can see it was rather popular!
At the entrance is a huge ventilation stack.
Crossing the motorway is the arched Te Whitinga Footbridge connecting Owairaka and New Windsor.
The Valonia Wetlands have been restored, and a popular skatepark built nearby.