Hard News by Russell Brown


Touching Waterview

Yesterday, I joined thousands of other Aucklanders on the first public walkthrough of the 2.4km Waterview tunnel that will, when it opens to traffic early next month, bring SH20 all the way to SH16, thus completing the Auckland motorway network.

Why would someone who bangs on about bikes all the time be moved to go to the opening of a $1.4 billion stretch of motorway? People did ask that. But when you've watched something this big grow gradually over years on the edge of your suburb, you want to see and touch it – and this week's access is the only time most of us will get close enough to touch.

It's a fair old walk from from the entry point off Hendon Ave to the southern tunnel entrance, and from there walkers go about a kilometre into the northbound tunnel before using either of two crossing points about 100 metres apart to return via the southbound. Wear comfortable shoes and take a jacket, because it's a little chilly inside.

There was, as you might expect, the mass taking of tunnel selfies yesterday, but I also found myself inspecting and photographing the glossy, cream-coloured concrete walls of the tunnel, which are dotted with ports and slots; artefacts of the construction process that make for a kind of accidental art.

Perhaps it's also Grenfell Tower being fresh in the mind, but fire-and-other-emergency facilities seemed to stand out too. There were hydrants and escapes all along the route.

Note that if, like me, you have a ticket for next weekend's bike-only ride-through, you'll get to ride the full length of the tunnel, from daylight to daylight, before returning.

NB: Feel free to add your own pictures of the day, by clicking the "Choose file" button by the comment window (you need to have typed some text into the window for it to work). You can add up to the images to your comment by using the 20-minute edit function to go back in and choose another pic. Pics ranging from 500KB to 11MB in size are about right. If you want to add a video clip from YouTube or Vimeo, just paste in the URL and it will automagically embed.

For now, here's a short video I took not long after the crowd entered.

The queues meet at the access gate as the official invitees leave. It was only after I got home that I spotted Act Party leader David Seymour in the picture. Photo: Russell Brown

Me on the walk to the southern entrance, looking like I own the place. Which I sort of do, as a taxpayer. Photo: Russell Brown

Phil Goff was stationed near the entrance, smiling and shaking babies. He genuinely seemed to be having a great time. Photo: Russell Brown

The fire exits start just before the tunnel does. Photo: Russell Brown

A bike hero and a cosmologist join the selfie hordes. Photo: Russell Brown

Crossing between tunnels for the return walk. A fluorescent light flickered unnerving off and on. Photo: Russell Brown

There were lots of families taking pics of each other. Photo: Russell Brown