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When the Waterview Tunnel opens to traffic early next month it will transform the way people and freight move around Auckland. It will herald the biggest change in the city’s transport system since the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959. It’s part of a huge and ongoing infrastructure investment from this Government that is only possible because we’ve managed the books well and have choices about where to invest.

The twin 2.4km-long, three-lane tunnels and a giant motorway interchange at Great North Road are the final piece in the 48km Western Ring Route – a second route through Auckland, bypassing the city centre, creating greater reliability and resilience.

When National came into Government in 2008 we decided we needed a way to fast-track important transport infrastructure projects. We could see that some projects needed to be constructed and built as quickly as possible, so we developed the Roads of National Significance programme.

The $2.4 billion Western Ring Route, which includes Waterview, was chosen because of the contribution it would make to our fastest growing city. It has been hugely successful and is expected to produce economic benefits worth $430 million, through improved productivity and reduced travel time, and create more than 18,000 jobs.

The $1.4 billion tunnel, which runs between Pt Chevalier and Mt Roskill, will greatly also benefit the surrounding suburbs by freeing up local roads by transferring traffic onto the state highway network.

It will also provide more transport options. New bus shoulder lanes will mean more efficient journeys for people using buses to travel to and from the central business district and demonstrate National’s commitment to public transport. Significant upgrades and an extension to the Northwestern Cycleway will provide a safe, separated and enjoyable route for pedestrians and cyclists, between the city and western suburbs.

The completed Western Ring Route will provide a better balance of traffic flows across the entire road network, it is not designed to remove congestion altogether. Depending on the time of day, people will be able to see what best route will work for them, providing for a more balanced network.

This long awaited and eagerly anticipated piece of transport infrastructure envisioned decades ago is a major change so it will take time for people to get used to the new roads – from those who will just want to drive on them for the first time, to commuters and other road users determining their new travel patterns.

Like you, I’m looking forward to checking it out.

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