Mammoth tunnel-borer moved to site

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Roads near Auckland’s $1.4 billion Waterview motorway project had to close to enable delivery of part of a giant tunnelling machine that has arrived from China.

The New Windsor entry point to the Southwestern Motorway and a section of Sandringham Rd Extension were closed for five hours from midnight as the part is trucked from the waterfront, where 97 containers into which the $54 million tunnel-boring machine was packed for its voyage from China are being unloaded.

Transport Agency contractors will spend three months reassembling the 2300-tonne machine with its 14.46m-diameter drilling head in a deep trench at Alan Wood Reserve, before the first of two 2.4km motorway tunnels are drilled.

Sandringham Rd had to close so a culvert can be reinforced to take the extra heavy load.

Source:

  • NZ Herald
  • Mathew Dearnaley

Major Infrastructure plans for Auckland

The Government will push major roading projects In Auckland including a wider southern motorway, upgraded roading to the airport, and a freight corridor in Manukau before it begins work on the City Rail Link and a second Waitemata Harbour Crossing, Prime Minister John Key has revealed this afternoon.

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Mr Key confirmed that Government would back Auckland’s three top transport priorities – the City Rail Link, another Waitemata Harbour crossing, and the Auckland Manukau Eastern Transport Initiative (AMETI), which includes the East-West Link.

“These three projects are all identified as the highest transport priorities in the Council’s Auckland Plan,” he said. “They have a price tag of around $10 billion and they are projects that need to be planned for over a long period of time.”

The harbour crossing will be twin tunnels under the Waitemata – the option of another bridge has been ruled out – and construction was expected to start between 2025 and 2030. Auckland Council would begin protecting land for the development in December once the alignment of the crossing had been finalised.

Mr Key said construction of the City Rail Link would not begin until 2020 unless employment levels in the central city climbed by 25 per cent and annual rail trips hit 20 million a year.

“We will consider an earlier start date if it becomes clear that Auckland’s CBD employment and rail patronage growth hit thresholds faster than current rates of growth suggest.

“I realise 2020 is not what the Council leadership is wanting, but while we may differ on timeframes, there is clear recognition by the Government that the project will be needed to address access to the Auckland CBD and improve the efficiency of rail.”

Total rail trips are around 11 million a year.

Mr Key confirmed that the Government’s “next major focus” for Auckland would be the AMETI project, which is already underway but was not scheduled to be completed for 20 years.

“Given the importance of the area, delivering these projects over 20 years is simply not acceptable.”

Government has asked the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) which parts of AMETI could be accelerated with additional funding.

“As you know, the area between Onehunga, Mt Wellington and East Tamaki is home to a number of industrial and logistics businesses that make a critical contribution to the Auckland and national economy.

“About as many people are employed here as in the CBD and there is considerable potential for more growth.

“However, the transport links in and out of this area aren’t up to the job.

“Truck drivers have told us they can get stuck in congestion at any time during the working day and a seven-minute trip between Metroport and the Onehunga wharf can take as long as 40 minutes.”

The $2.6 billion project included a $1.1 billion East-West Link, a road between Mt Wellington and Onehunga.

Government also planned to fast-track three NZTA projects:

– A motorway-to-motorway link between the Upper Harbour Highway and the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive

– Widening of the Southern Motorway between Manukau and Papakura

– Upgrade of the State Highway 20A link to the airport to motorway standard

These developments were designed to reduce congestion, capitalise on the benefits of the Western Ring Route, and improve access to the airport.

Mr Key said: “Under current funding assumptions, construction of these projects may be up to 10 years away from starting.

“But the Government is not prepared to wait that long.”

Government will consult with NZTA on how to bring these projects forward, and will provide additional funding to make this happen.

The transport package did not mention rail to the airport, which was no longer one of the highest priorities for the Auckland Council.

It has not yet been made clear how Government will source its funding for its share of these projects, but the Prime Minister has confirmed that some of the $2.86 billion rail link could be paid for with proceeds from asset sales.

Source:

  • NZ Herald
  • Isaac Davison

Plans for second Mt Victoria tunnel announced

A second two-lane tunnel through Mt Victoria could be open to traffic within a decade.

The NZ Transport Agency has today revealed plans for a second Mt Victoria Tunnel and widening of Ruahine St and Wellington Rd to connect to the new $90 million Basin flyover.

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The projects are all part of a $800 million traffic improvement project from Ngauranga to the airport, and today’s announcement sits alongside new details about the flyover project and a the reveal of a major public transport study for Wellington.

The plans for the second tunnel show it would sit directly along the northern side of the existing tunnel.

It would provide two lanes for east-bound traffic, along with a separate pedestrian and cycle facility linking to the flyover. On the Hataitai side of the tunnel, Ruahine St will become four lanes, and will also sport a pedestrian and cycling path.

Heading towards the airport Wellington Rd will be widened to six lanes and traffic lights will be installed at the intersection with Ruahine St.

The transport agency plans to seek resource consent late next year, with an aim to building the roading projects between 2018 and 2022.

The agency’s regional director Jenny Chetwynd said the proposals were all ”future proofed” so that they would be compatible with projects identified through the public transport study, also released today.

Key changes to the proposals had been made since the project was first looked at in 2011, she said.

”The big changes occur along Ruahine St where the width of the road has been reduced and therefore, the amount of land required from the Town Belt also reduces. ┬áThis is a positive result as this was a concern raised through our consultation.”

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The projects, in conjunction with the flyover, would be a big step forward for Wellington transport, she said.

Greater Wellington regional council chairwoman Fran Wilde said the projects were essential to connect the central city to the airport.

”Easy access to and through the central city, together with enhanced connections to Wellington Airport and the eastern suburbs, is increasingly important for the region’s growth”.

SECOND MT VICTORIA TUNNEL

  • The new tunnel will be roughly 14 metres wide, 650m long, and located about 25m to the north of the existing tunnel.
  • It will have two lanes catering for eastbound traffic (heading towards the airport). The existing tunnel will be upgraded for westbound traffic only.
  • A 3m-wide pedestrian/cycle path will be installed, replacing the one in the current tunnel. It will connect to the path that runs alongside the Basin flyover and through the National War Memorial Park.

RUAHINE ST AND THE TOWN BELT

  • The intersections where Goa St meet Ruahine St and Moxham Ave will be upgraded with traffic lights.
  • Traffic heading towards the airport on Ruahine St will not be able to turn left into Goa St, while traffic heading towards the city will not be able to turn right into Goa St.
  • A 4m-wide shared pedestrian/cycle/slow vehicle lane will be provided separately on the Hataitai Village side of Ruahine St. Access to properties will be maintained.

WELLINGTON RD

  • The road will be widened to six lanes and traffic lights will be installed at the intersection with Ruahine St, allowing for all turning movements.
  • A 6m-wide shared service lane will be provided to the north, which will close the Moxham Ave and Walmer St intersections
  • A “green link” between the Town Belt and Kilbirnie Park will be created after the properties on the Kilbirnie side of Wellington Rd have been removed.

Source:

  • Katie Chapman
  • Stuff.co.nz

Waterview Tunnel preparation works

At 14 metres in diameter, the twin tunnels of the Waterview Connection will be the biggest in Australasia. Yet the new motorway will burrow quietly beneath the parks and suburbs of the Auckland isthmus, not even emitting a gentle hum to tell those above of its existence.

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Goggles shield Kapeliele Vatuvei’s eyes from the wintry glare and the welding spatter, as the scaffolder works at the southern entrance to New Zealand’s newest and biggest tunnel project.

Deep in the pit, dwarfed by tunnel faces 10 storeys high, workers on the Waterview Connection scurry about looking like tiny orange-coloured ants.

Some drive diggers, scooping out some of the 800,000 cubic metres of dirt that will be removed to create two, three-lane tunnels as part of the $1.4 billion project to link west-bound State Highway 16 and the dead-end SH20.

Others simply whack at the face, handily marked “north bound” in bright blue spray paint, with handheld tools as they prepare the site for when a $54 million tunnel boring machine is switched on in October.

Vatuvei (a distant cousin to Warriors star Manu Vatuvei) is enthralled by the massive job.

“I love starting things off and helping see them through to the end,” he says.

“There’s plenty of action around here and everything’s changing so quickly as we get ready to bore those tunnels.”

Tommy Parker, Auckland and Northland state highways manager for the New Zealand Transport Agency, says 24,000 pre-cast segments are being prepared in an East Tamaki factory for the German-built boring machine, which will install the tunnel walls as it bores.

Its 4.8km return journey will take two years, but the portion of the motorway dipping underground only accounts for half the distance the connection will cover. It will total 5km when finished.

North of the tunnel face, workers are preparing the Waterview side for a cut and cover tunnel entrance and Spaghetti Junction-style interchange with SH16, the Northwestern Motorway.

Watching the workers below, part of a force of 350 that will eventually rise to 750, Parker shares the awe many feel when reflecting on the scale of the project, the biggest transport-related public works project since the Auckland Harbour Bridge was built in the 1950’s.

“It’s a different scale from anything we’ve done in New Zealand. You see this kind of thing in London,” he says. “Everything about this project is big.

The Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), built in China by German company Herrenknecht, is an Earth Pressure Balance Machine. This means the drill can tunnel under the surface at shallow depths, maintaining the pressure in the ground and preventing subsidence – essential when working under residential and commercial areas.

Source:

  • Cherie Howie
  • Herald on Sunday
  • Photo / Doug Sherring

Tunnelling monster heads to Auckland

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A tunnelling machine dwarfing the world’s largest airliner is bound for Auckland, where it will spend more than two years digging an underground motorway from Owairaka to Waterview.

The $54 million machine – the 10th largest borer of its kind – has been formally accepted from its German manufacturer’s Chinese factory by contractors building the Transport Agency’s 4.8km Waterview motorway connection for $1.4 billion.

With a 2300-tonne circular cutting head 14.5m in diameter, making it as high as a three-storey building, the 97m-long machine could easily swallow the body of an Airbus A380 and most of a rugby field.

The behemoth’s handover this week to the motorway construction alliance at the factory in Guangzhou follows a 14-month design, build and testing programme. It will now have to be dismantled for shipment to Auckland, where it is due to arrive in July.

The alliance has since last winter been digging a huge trench in Alan Wood Reserve, Owairaka, ready to re-assemble the machine in situ, for tunnelling to start in October.

Just lowering it section-by-section into the ground will require a 600-tonne gantry crane straddling the pit, which will be at the western end of 2km of surface motorway from Maioro St in New Windsor.

The machine will spend a year digging the first of two 2.4km tunnels, slotting in pre-cast concrete rings as it works its way through the ground, before being turned at Waterview to dig the second tunnel, burrowing back to where it started.

At a top speed of 8cm a minute, it will chew through up to 10m of ground a day at depths varying from 10m to 47m, beneath a thick layer of basalt rock and Oakley Creek, to complete the final link of the 47km western ring route by 2017.

Source:

  • Mathew Dearnaley
  • NZ Herald
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