The NZ Transport Agency is warning drivers of considerable delays during Auckland Anniversary Weekend when it closes a section of Auckland's Southern Motorway (State Highway 1) to complete work before opening the new northbound Newmarket Viaduct.
The motorway’s northbound lanes will be closed between the Market Road off-ramp and the Gillies Ave on-ramps from 5pm Saturday, 28 January, for final preparations to allow drivers on to the new northbound viaduct from Anniversary Monday morning, 30 January.
“Travel delays will be inevitable, they will be considerable and they will be widespread” says the NZTA’s acting State Highways manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton.
“We’re talking about trying to re-direct up to 65,000 vehicles on the Sunday alone,” he adds. “Even with detours, the impact of the closure will be felt well beyond the Southern Motorway. If people absolutely must travel we’re urging that they allow a lot more time for their journey. “
“We accept that this may cause frustration – particularly on a long weekend – but our best advice is to stay away from the motorway during Auckland Anniversary weekend,” Mr Mutton says.
The closure is necessary so that the NZTA can switch the motorway’s northbound lanes across to the new viaduct. At the same time, the blue lifting gantry used for the viaduct’s construction has to be moved on to the existing northbound viaduct to help with its demolition.
Mr Mutton says construction of the new viaduct is ahead of schedule and the NZTA and its NGA Newmarket alliance partners (NZTA, Leighton Contractors, Fulton Hogan, Beca, VSL, URS, Tonkin @ Taylor and Boffa Miskell) want to deliver the benefits from the project to drivers as quickly as possible.
“To have reached the stage where we’re now ready to switch northbound traffic across to the new structure, significantly ahead of schedule is a remarkable achievement,” Mr Mutton says. “We’ve had fantastic support from drivers while we’ve replaced the old viaduct and we’re now asking people to help us again to keep the city moving through this closure.
“We’re taking advantage of a long three- day weekend so that we can deliver this important project to Aucklanders. We appreciate the support and patience of all drivers and we’ll be working hard to finish as quickly as possible.”
Detours will be in place during Anniversary weekend and detour routes to key destinations are available online, at www.nzta.govt.nz/aklsummerseason(external link) and www.facebook.com/switchmyroute(external link).
Mr Mutton repeats, however, that alternative routes will not be able to cope if regular weekend traffic flows occur.
“Even with a managed closure and detours in place, congestion will be extensive.”
The Automobile Association is supporting the NZTA in urging people to avoid unnecessary trips. If they do have to travel says AA spokesman Simon Lambourne, they should plan their journeys and drive with patience and care.
“Congestion will be significant with the closure of the northbound lanes,” Mr Lambourne says, “but the short term pain will be well worth it given the long term benefits of the new viaduct.”
The new southern viaduct at Newmarket opened in September, 2010, after a similar motorway closure.
Like the old viaduct built in 1965, its replacement is almost 700 metres long but it has wider lanes, is seismically stronger, and will produce less traffic noise.
“The viaduct stands at the heart of one of the most critical transport links for Auckland and New Zealand – one that carries on average more than 160,000 vehicles daily,” says Mr Mutton.
The opening of the viaduct’s northbound lanes on Auckland Anniversary Monday marks the latest in a series of large NZTA projects to improve travel through the central motorway junction (CMJ). The viaduct is located at the southern end of the CMJ. At its northern end, the Victoria Park tunnel opened last November, and new southbound lanes through St Marys Bay and across the Victoria Park flyover opened earlier this month.
“These are huge projects designed to help Auckland’s economy and its communities,” Mr Mutton says. “With the support of drivers during Auckland Anniversary Weekend we will be able to deliver the next very significant improvement to their motorway to make travel more reliable, quicker, and safer.”
The NZTA is running an extensive communications campaign using traditional and social media, and a large sign on the lifting gantry on the Newmarket Viaduct to make people aware of the closure and its impact on travel.
The southbound lanes on the Southern Motorway are not affected by the Auckland Anniversary Weekend closure.
Note to editors: In the event of adverse weather the weekend of January 28-30, these works could be delayed until Waitangi weekend.
For more information on the Newmarket Viaduct Replacement Project visit, www.nzta.govt.nz/newmarketconnection(external link)