The NZ Transport Agency is urging people to plan ahead to avoid Auckland Anniversary Weekend delays, not only on regional highways but in Auckland too when a significant section of the city's Southern Motorway (State Highway 1) is closed.
"Our regional highways are traditionally very busy during Auckland Anniversary Weekend as people take advantage of the last long weekend before children return to school, but this year we have the additional challenge of the motorway closure and widespread congestion," says the NZTA's acting State Highways manager for Auckland and North, Steve Mutton.
The motorway's northbound lanes will be closed between the Market Road off-ramp and the Gillies Avenue on-ramp from 5pm on Saturday (28 January) so that the NZTA can complete work to open the new northbound Newmarket Viaduct for drivers on Auckland Anniversary Monday (30 January).
"We're ahead of schedule with the Newmarket project and we want to deliver its benefits to Aucklanders as quickly as we can, but we can't do that without this closure," Mr Mutton says. "If people have to travel, they will need more time for their journeys and they will need to drive with patience and care because congestion is going to be severe."
On average up to 65,000 vehicles use the closed section of motorway every Sunday and they will have to be redirected on to local roads.
"We will have detours in place, but the impact of the closure will be felt beyond the Southern Motorway," Mr Mutton says.
Detours are likely to result in particularly heavy traffic in the following areas:
To help keep detoured traffic moving, the NZTA will close some on and off ramps along the motorway: Market Road southbound off-ramp, Greenlane northbound on-ramp, Ellerslie-Panmure Highway northbound on-ramp and the South Eastern Highway northbound on-ramp.
Mr Mutton says the NZTA welcomes a decision by Auckland Transport and KiwiRail to defer electrification work and keep the Southern line through Newmarket open during the holiday weekend to provide a travel alternative for Aucklanders.
The motorway is being closed so that the NZTA can divert northbound traffic lanes on to the new viaduct, and to shift the blue lifting gantry used for the viaduct's construction.
"We appreciate the support we've had from drivers from the start of the Newmarket project, and we will be doing everything to get this necessary work finished as quickly as possible to manage congestion," says Mr Mutton.
For those people leaving Auckland, Mr Mutton says driving conditions will be demanding.
"Temperatures will be at their summer peak and there will be slow moving queues on sections of the state highway network. Like driving in Auckland this weekend, care and patience will be needed."
There are choices for those leaving Auckland to help minimise delays:
Unless there is an emergency, NZTA regional highway improvement works will be suspended to help make journeys smoothers.
"People, however, should always expect the unexpected. On a holiday weekend like this the highway environment can be more unpredictable. There could be a queue, a bike or even a horse just around the corner," Mr Mutton says.
There are a number of websites available to help people plan for safe travel this weekend: