On 27th February 1964, the Lyttelton Road Tunnel opened. It was and has remained New Zealand’s longest road tunnel at 1.9km.
From the beginning of the Canterbury settlement, easier access between Port Lyttelton and Christchurch was a constant topic at the Canterbury Provincial Chambers. The Bridle Path was only ever to be temporary route as Sumner Road was yet to be completed and the crossing of the infamous Sumner bar at the mouth of the estuary was not for the faint-hearted.
A tunnel through the Port Hills was needed. There was so much to consider. The cost for one and the fact that the Port Hills was volcanic rock and no one in the world had ever succeeded to make a tunnel through that kind of material. There was also concern for sweaty horses catching a cold from being exposed to the cool dampness of a tunnel.
It was finally decided that such an historic project was a second generation project for such a new city as Christchurch – that was at least until William Sefton Moorhouse became Canterbury Superintendent in 1857. He picked up the project and ran with it, against huge odds.
The Lyttelton (Moorhouse) Railway Tunnel opened on 9th December 1867, the project now embracing the recent arrival of the railway to New Zealand.
Construction for the Lyttelton Road Tunnel began in 1962 by Fletcher Construction Ltd and Henry J. Kaiser Co Inc. Part of the Heathcote end of the Bridle Path was demolished as 250kgs of explosives were used. 150,000 cubic metres of rock was removed and, once completed, 1.5 million white tiles were used to beautify the tunnel inside.
A 20c toll was in place from opening day till 1979.
*Image courtesy of the Canterbury Heritage Blogspot – http://canterburyheritage.blogspot.co.nz