The last concrete has been poured on the tunnel box below Albert St for the $4.4 billion City Rail Link, opening the way to reinstate the busy central city thoroughfare.
City Rail Link Ltd(CRLL) chief executive Dr Sean Sweeney said with the concrete pour successfully completed today, "there is now a finish line in sight for our work at the north end of Albert St".
"There is still work to do underground, but we can now start to turn our attention to people-friendly improvements along Albert St itself," said Sweeney.
Work on building the underground tunnels along Albert St has dragged on for two years longer than planned and had a serious impact on local businesses.
Work is planned to start this month on the first phase of enhancement work, including wider footpaths, more shared space for people and new trees.
Work will start from Wyndham St and head block by block north towards Customs St.
"If work goes to plan we are hoping to return the first section of enhancements back to the community around Christmas," said Sweeney.
Sunny Kaushal, who runs the historic Shakespeare Tavern on Albert St and a spokesman for affected businesses, said there is no silver lining for small business owners on the brink of financial ruin from the works.
He said only a small area of Albert St would be reinstated by Christmas and disruption would continue until the end of next year.
Kaushal estimates the "war zone" outside his business has cost $1.5m in lost earnings.
Sweeney confirmed work on reinstating Albert St would not be completed until the end of next year, but said CRLL is continuing to work with local businesses and others to promote Albert St.
"Improvements to Albert St will be delivered block by block so that people get to enjoy the benefits from the enhancement work as soon as it is available rather than waiting for all the improvements to be completed," he said.
CRLL and the project funders - Auckland Council and the Government - have refused to provide compensation to affected businesses.
The final concrete pour now connects the Albert St tunnel box to a box under the Commercial Bay property development, linking Albert St to the CRL lower Queen St/Britomart station construction site.
Construction in Albert St began in December 2015, with the diversion of a major stormwater line to create room for the tunnel.
More information about the CRL project is available at www.cityraillink.co.nz