NZTA Plea: Don’t Hold Up Vic Tunnel Traffic


NZTA insists there’ll be a “settling in period” with the new Victoria Park tunnel.

Motorists have been complaining about delays last night.

The Victoria Park Tunnel opened on Monday after the final work to connect the tunnel to the motorway network was successfully carried out over the weekend.

NZTA Regional Assets Manager Steve Mutton expects things to become normal over the next few weeks.

“When we opened on Monday morning two lanes of traffic moved from the viaduct to the tunnel with no change to capacity. The congestion experienced by many on their commute last night is largely due to curious motorists taking a look as they travel through the tunnel for the first time.”

“We’re urging everyone to take care not to hold up traffic behind them.

“As with any new piece of infrastructure there is always a settling in period. We will continue to actively monitor the traffic flows as it returns to normal over the next few weeks,” says Mr Mutton.

VICTORIA PARK TUNNEL:Too much rubber necking going on


Overnight closures will continue this week as the project gears up for the next phase. Work will now focus on reconfiguring the Victoria Park flyover for southbound traffic and will open in its new configuration in January 2012.

The third and final release of new motorway capacity will be in March when the third tunnel lane and an additional northbound lane through St Marys Bay open to traffic.





  1. Geoff Houtman says:

    I still don’t get how our third of a billion dollars spend helps ANYONE heading North? Still the same number of lanes on the bridge right?

  2. Giel says:

    The Harbour bridge itself is hardly ever the cause of congestion heading north - it is nearly always the limited capacity over the viaduct at Victoria Park so it will be much better when all the lanes are fully commisioned

  3. Pete says:

    Mr Muttons full of it. All this twaddle over a short expensive ditch with a lid on it and they cant even open up the 3x lanes yet. Oh dear the poor old kiwi motorist has to take baby steps before we can play on the pre bridge slalom. Anyway its not finished yet I’m sure because the tarseal has got to be the worst job yet, feels like its full of potholes. Strewth I get a smoother ride in Shanghai with blackstuff laid by some half educated skinny fellah paid a bowl of rice. I mark it 3 out of 10.

  4. Nick R says:

    “The Harbour bridge itself is hardly ever the cause of congestion heading north ”

    It will be soon. Three lanes from the tunnel, three from Fanshawe (not counting the fourth short bus lane) and the Curran St on-ramp, all trying to fit into five northbound lanes over the bridge at peak.

  5. Giel says:

    Nick R By that logic you would need a lane on the bridge for every lane that joins the motorway at every on ramp along the entire motorway. - clearly that’s not the case. This project once fully commissioned is one of the best motorway projects to be delivered in that regard for many years - that should be obvious to most who look at current traffic flows around the south end of the bridge and the congestion elsewhere caused by that.

  6. Stew says:

    The main cause of the congestion is the on ramp from the northwestern heading north. Due to the new alignment it is not easy to see what is heading north as you merge from it. This will be sorted out when the third lane is opened as I understand there will be a dedicated lane through the tunnel with only the Wellington street on ramp joining it.

  7. Paul Q says:

    @Pete - obviously you are not aware that complex engineering projects often require multiple phases, especially in areas with little physical space to work in and coping with existing traffic.
    The reason the third lane is not open is that there is further work to be done to allow for this through St Mary’s Bay, which obviously couldn’t be completed till traffic was moved to the new configuration. Simple as that.
    A perfect analogy to this is the Newmarket Viaduct - under your argument, they should have built both new North and South viaducts at the same time and opened them at the same time! Slight problem of space to put the new ones and the fact they need to remove one of the old ones before they can build the other.
    Stop being so cynical!

  8. Patrick R says:

    Every new lane merely stimulates the ‘need’ for more new lanes. Daft failure to see the need to manage demand through constraining supply- while also providing alternatives.

    Also all that money and we don’t have our park back; only half a job….

  9. Pete says:

    Paul Q - obviously nothing, clearly your experience of “complex engineering projects” and mine are from a different baseline. May I recommend the start of a more interesting and certainly more profitabe career in challenging civil is but a jetstar flight away. On another note dear old Lenny will be able to bore a few hobbits on how real tunnels happen soon I guess, that will sort the men from the boys.

  10. Nick R says:

    @Giel, by my logic you would need a lane on the motorway for every full lane worth of traffic you add to it. Not every on ramp on every motorway adds a full lane worth of traffic, but I’m pretty sure the CBD ones do at peak times.

    My point is that they bridge currently flows fairly well in the afternoon peak because it is constrained further upstream by the Victoria Park choke point. Now that constraint has been lifted the bridge will become the choke point, this project isn’t going have an appreciable effect on congestion northbound in the corridor, it will just move the bottleneck.

  11. Patrick R says:

    And nick that’s what it is for; moving the bottleneck that is. Once it is up and running at seven lanes the pressure can start on lobbying for a zillion dollar negative BCR Harbour Crossing….

  12. max says:

    “Not every on ramp on every motorway adds a full lane worth of traffic, but I’m pretty sure the CBD ones do at peak times.”

    Actually, it is slightly WORSE than that, because traffic joining the motorway causes some disturbance effects on the main flow, even with lane additions.

    “can start on lobbying for a zillion dollar negative BCR”

    One or two more changes by our dear Minister of Transport, and the manuals will be rewritten to automatically apply positive BCRs to RONS projects depending on how much the minister likes them - no more need for cooked books.

    BCR calculations always reflect the value judgements of the persons writing the manual. They are NOT science, and barely qualify as economic calculations.

  13. ingolfson says:

    Pete - yeah right, project way ahead of schedule, but of course you have the right to criticise them from your baseline somewhere in the great internet. Lol.

    Judging from the response of people like yours, they should have kept the whole thing closed for a lot longer until they were able to extend the barrier machine section. Guess it serves them right for trying to get it done by minister’s direction ahead of the election. Lol again.

  14. Giel says:

    Nick R So where are all the journeys coming from to fill up this new capacity that is being added? Are people going to use the motorway now for the fun of it and to merely put them back in the position they are currently in. Do we as mere observers know more than professional traffic planners? Apply that logic to everything and you would never build anything new for fear that it would never be enough as it would simply fill up to the point it was before we built it. Sounds very defeatest to me.

    Let’s look at this in six months time and then comment from a position of knowledge rather than prejudice that is so often present in many blog comments here.

  15. Brian says:

    How did this project ever get priority over the CBD rail link?

  16. Nick R says:

    Giel, I didn’t say there would be new journeys, I said it would move the bottleneck. So you have much the same numbers of drivers just stuck in a different place. No need to resort to people ‘using the motorway for the fun of it’, every afternoon there are huge queues of people lined up at on ramps waiting to the use the motorway.

    Currently in the afternoon peak traffic backs up along SH16 from the port, SH16 from the Nothwestern, along Wellington St behind the ramp and often on SH1 itself. This is due to the bottleneck of the two lanes over the viaduct. You have five lanes full of cars trying to get into two. Then you have two more full lanes joining at Fanshawe. Fast forward to when our tunnel is opening and we have an extra lane open through the park and an extra lane joining at Fanshawe. At peak time when there is traffic backed up at every entry ramp all this will do is get more traffic into St Marys Bay and the bridge. The choke point will be shifted along to St Marys and the bridge itself.

    You have to consider it as a serial system, it is only as capacious as it’s weakest link. Currently that weak link is the viaduct, which means the bridge runs just under capacity and usually flows freely (if a little slowly). Ease that and the weakest link becomes the bridge itself, and the bridge will no longer flow freely. The end result? More people in slow traffic on the motorway rather than inching along the on ramps. But when the tailback reaches through St Mary’s to the tunnel the end result is much the same.

    As for professional traffic planners, their modelled predictions tend to fail due to the assumptions of the model, plus a tendency to view each project individually within the scope of that development rather than as one component in a serial system. So actually their prediction will be true, 50% more traffic flowing northbound through Victoria park. The problem comes with what happens at the bridge. As for being a mere observer I don’t know about you but I have a degree in planning and have spent the last two years researching transport networks.

    Just one more point to clarify: I think this project will help a lot in the southbound direction, as it provides additional capacity downstream of the new choke point so it will clear traffic rather than cause congestion. My concern is with the northbound direction, it provides more capacity upstream of the new choke point allowing more vehicles to reach the choke point.

    Indeed, let’s wait six months until it is all open and we shall see. My prediction is easier flow through to SH1 and SH16 in the morning, much the same congestion leading to Fanshawe in the morning, but in the afternoon congestion on the harbour bridge tailing back to Fanshawe and right through the tunnel.

  17. Patrick R says:

    And, of course, vast over capacity outside the peaks….

  18. Giel says:

    Nick R Not sure I agree with your logic as the harbor bridge clears very quickly heading north due to many vehicles exiting the Northern Motorway at Onewa Road and Akoranga. Remember they are extending the movable barriers south to increase afternoon Northbound capacity. As I see it the main choke point after the new tunnel is not the Bridge but north of the Northcote Road Offramp but as we both say let’s wait and see what happens.

  19. Giel says:

    To clarify the movable barrier comment relates to the additional northbound capacity, yet to be commissioned, for traffic ex Fanshawe Street available at peak times only (to the right of the tunnel exit heading north). That will help relieve any choke point coming from that onramp merging with traffic ex the tunnel at peak time. It’s going to very interesting to see how it all works.

  20. Pete says:

    Nick R - your latest comment I concur with and in fact fairly nails the matter. On the basis that you seem to see the bigger picture I would be interested in your comment as to my belief that compounding the bridge congestion will be an increase in accidents on the Herne Bay slalom (northbound) at the very point where many vehicles will choose to swap lanes. When last in Auckland a few months back I got jammed on the flyover after several cars got seriously creamed while lane changing despite the new very heavy solid white line. Lane changing on curves will at very least slow down all traffic. For the enormous cost of the project I would have thought some road straightening would have been prudent. Missed opportunity. Also in reference to your bigger picture, can I take it you may agree that the ramp signals are causing more peripheral problems than any motorway benefit, for that is my opinion at least.

  21. Giel says:

    Never ceases to amaze me self proclaimed experts that comment on blogs and the following they get. All I can say is that the real experts concentrate on getting the job done making New Zealand’s infrastructure better for the vast majority of us which this project will almost certainly do.

  22. Nick R says:

    Giel, indeed the harbour bridge currently clear quickly. This is because it has a little more capacity that the motorway feeding it. The movable barrier provides five peak lanes from the foot of the bridge, and the motorway north of the bridge has five lanes as far as Onewa Rd. Right now we have two lanes over the viaduct, add two lanes at Fanshawe giving four lanes through St Marys Bay. So we have four lanes of traffic plus the Curran St on ramp going into five lanes, no problem for the bridge.

    However, when the works are completed the bridge will have less capacity than the motorway feeding it. We will have three lanes through the tunnel and three lanes from Fanshawe (including the peak right hand lane) going into five through St Marys Bay. That’s an issue right there, six lanes into five is going to create a merge issue before we even reach the bridge, especially when we consider the weaving issues through St Marys Bay. Then we also add the traffic from the Curran St ramp and send this all into five lanes. So we have up to seven lanes worth of peak hour traffic trying to fit into five lanes over the bridge. That just makes the bridge itself the new choke point. Even with the ramp metering signals working we’re still going to a tail back from the bridge right through St Marys Bay to Fanshawe and through the tunnel.

    Pete, I agree that the lane changing on the curve is going to be an issue. With an extra lane though St Marys that will compound the number of lane changes required by drivers to get into the right lane over the bridge, for example someone coming from SH1 currently has to merge across a minimum of two lanes before the bridge to get to the Stafford or Onewa exits. With the new works this will become a minimum of three lanes to cross. Plus those lane changes have to occur on the sweeping curves or hard right hander before the bridge.

  23. Giel says:

    Guys agree completely about the lane changing part - from NZTA’s own admission this may create problems if your heading south especially.

    As for the rest you may well be right about the bridge being the new constraint but my point is overall there will be materially less constraint than there is now so current problems should materially ease. In any transport system be it road, rail or air there will nearly always be a constraint or choke point in the system under certain limited conditions. That is almost unavoidable in any complex motorway system where you have multiple entry and exit points to a network. Currently that choke point is very severe but I believe the overall effect will be shorter and decrease in severity when one observes how quickly northbound traffic disperses once it clears the bridge.

  24. Patrick R says:

    Giel, I would very sincerely hope that the people who are paid to manage the transport system are at the very least a little bit competent to do so. However it is not outside of possibility that their day to day concerns may allow them to lose sight of the bigger picture. And furthermore, like politicians, they are our employees and it is not unreasonable for us to raise issues about their decisions. Especially as sometimes institutions like these develop their own logic and power plays that are not at all clear from the inside.

    I am always interested in specialist knowledge and viewpoint, but remain mindful that it can often fall into the trap of becoming self-serving.

  25. Giel says:

    Patrick R Fair point. I agree - one good reason amongst many to encourage good informed debate here on these blogs

  26. damian says:

    Apparently there is a physological effect that makes people slow down in tunnels. This could mean that all three lanes will never been used at the designated speed


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