This morning was the ultimate test of the Waterview Tunnel. A Monday in peak-hour traffic.

It quietly opened in the early hours of yesterday, without an official announcement, but was still busy with people going for a nosey.

The Herald decided to compare the journey from West Auckland to Onehunga using two routes - one going through the tunnel and one avoiding it. Both routes were approximately 22km.

The starting point was at 6.37am on Triangle Rd in Massey, often a bottleneck trying to get onto the Northwestern Motorway/State Highway 16 using the Lincoln Rd on-ramp.

The end point was Neilson St - a few exits before the busy Auckland Airport turn-off.

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A Herald reporter and photographer in one car drove through the new tunnel, and a man who lives off Triangle Rd and works in Onehunga used his usual route - a collection of suburban streets through the suburbs of Pt Chevalier and Mt Albert.

Through the tunnel

Having grown up in West Auckland, a trip to Onehunga or beyond to South Auckland is not always a simple cruise.

You grow up knowing all the back streets - through New Lynn, Mt Albert, Mt Roskill, Avondale, Blockhouse Bay and Hillsborough.

Today, however, was just that - a simple cruise.

The new route, through the long awaited Waterview Tunnel, is a 22.5km trip that this morning took us 21 minutes.

The Waterview Tunnel put to the test: West Auckland man Mauricio Moreira and Herald reporter Vaimoana Tapaleao took two different routes to Onehunga to see which was quicker. Photo / Michael Craig
The Waterview Tunnel put to the test: West Auckland man Mauricio Moreira and Herald reporter Vaimoana Tapaleao took two different routes to Onehunga to see which was quicker. Photo / Michael Craig

It would have been a little quicker had it not been the long wait to get on to Lincoln Rd.

The traffic - or non-traffic - was flowing smoothly after the Lincoln Rd on-ramp, past the Patiki Rd off-ramp and towards the tunnel.

The most exciting part of the whole trip was when a car cut somewhat dangerously in front of us just after the Pt Chev off-ramp, going towards the tunnel.

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The driver probably got their lanes mixed up - something motorists will still be getting used to now it is open.

Even inside the underground highway there were only a few vehicles.

It felt like a trip to the airport in the early hours of the morning; which of course, will also now be quicker.

We have family based in South Auckland and it's not unusual for us to make trips to Manurewa or Takanini at least twice a fortnight.

Those trips can take 50 minutes to an hour, from Massey, depending on traffic.

If it's a Sunday afternoon, we usually have to text ahead saying: "You guys start lunch now. We're still on the motorway.''

Now that the tunnel is open, we can say goodbye to the back streets and hopefully now be on time for lunch.

Avoiding the tunnel

Ultimately, the new Waterview Tunnel was made for people like Mauricio Moreira.

The logistics worker lives in West Auckland and works in Onehunga - a 44km round trip - so wants to avoid the morning deluge of commuters heading into the city.

Until now, once he's kicked off the Northwestern Motorway at Great North Rd, he has to travel at less than 50km on suburban streets until he can get back on to a motorway, State Highway 20, to get to work.

The new tunnel means he doesn't have to get off the motorway, with the Northwestern and SH20 now connected.

Photo / NZ Herald
Photo / NZ Herald

But this morning, he predicted congestion on the shiny new road, so avoided it like the plague and drove his usual route - which means past the busy Unitec and along the busy Mt Albert and Dominion Rds.

Turns out he didn't have to.

He usually takes between 45 minutes and an hour, aiming to arrive at work by 7.30am.

Moreira's trip today took about 26 minutes.

"Today was really fast, especially because it was raining this morning," he said.

"Usually the traffic would be hideous. When I got to the Pt Chevalier [Great North Rd] exit, there is usually a big line, but there was no cars.

"Maybe the new tunnel spread the traffic a bit more evenly."

He plans on taking the tunnel route tomorrow.