The first stage of the $25 million Waterview cycling and walking path opened today.

The Waterview shared path, which will connect with 50km of cycleways in Auckland, is a big win for locals, who have fought long and hard to receive some benefits from the $1.4 billion Waterview tunnel.

When completed at the end of winter or early spring, the path will connect the suburbs of Waterview and Mt Albert, with access to the Unitec Campus.

It includes a striking arch-shaped Hendon Footbridge spanning the Southwestern Motorway linking the communities of New Windsor and Owairaka.

It joins with the new Southwestern Shared Path which runs alongside the motorway to the Alan Wood Reserve. Eventually it will connect with the completed Waterview Shared Path.

Waterview resident and Albert-Eden Local Board member Margi Watson said the community had fought really hard during the board of inquiry process for the Waterview tunnel to have the pathway included.

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The new 90m bridge between Unitec and Waterview opened today. Photo / Supplied
The new 90m bridge between Unitec and Waterview opened today. Photo / Supplied

"There was real concern about 11 lanes of motorway at the northern end that just cuts the community off from open space," said Watson, the driving force behind the shared path.

Today, the first 570m of the pathway were opened, including the 90m Alford St bridge connecting Unitec campus across Oakley Creek to Waterview.

Auckland Transport chairman Lester Levy said the pathway would connect with 50km of cycleways in Auckland. Once the pathway was completed it will be possible to cycle from New Lynn to the CBD 10 minutes quicker than travelling by car, he said.

Auckland Mayor Phil Goff said the pathway offered Aucklanders real choice when it comes to how they get around the city.

But he noted that while the Waterview tunnel was providing some great relief, cars hate a vacuum and bets were being taken on how long the tunnel would become like other parts of the motorway.

Transport Minister Simon Bridges hailed the tunnel a "spectacular success" with 1.5 million journeys through the twin tunnels since it opened on July 3, or more than 60,000 a day. Traffic on local roads had dramatically reduced, he said.

Bridges said the shared path will make it easier for people to walk or cycle, whether they are a student walking to the Unitec campus, or a commuter cycling home to Onehunga or New Lynn.

The pathway is part of the Waterview tunnel project and the Government's urban cycleways programme that is investing $200m in projects across Auckland.

As well as the Waterview Shared Path, other cycling and walking connections are opening today, including the arch-shaped Hendon Footbridge (Te Whitinga) featuring a 110 tonne arch that provides a link across the Southwestern Motorway between New Windsor and Owairaka.

It joins the Southwestern Shared Path and runs alongside the motorway and will eventually meet with the Waterview Shared Path when it's finished.

A heritage trail running under the Great North Road Interchange connects the communities of Waterview and Pt Chevalier.

The Hendon footbridge
The Hendon footbridge

"The Hendon footbridge is a stunning addition to the landscape and is another striking example of engineering and design excellence coming together as they have all the way through the Waterview project," says New Zealand Transport Agency system design manager Brett Gliddon.

The 300m footbridge provides pedestrian and cycling access between the two communities of Owairaka and New Windsor as well as connecting to the southern shared path and new sports fields at Valonia St and Barrymore Rd.

"As well as looking spectacular the real beauty of this bridge is the way it will help connect two communities. It's a pleasure to be able to incorporate community facilities into large infrastructure projects like the Waterview Connection," Gliddon said.