The NZ Transport Agency will close the Wellington Street motorway on ramp in Auckland's CBD on May 2 for seven months to complete critical construction work on the Victoria Park Tunnel.
When the on ramp reopens in November, two of the tunnel's three lanes will also be available for drivers - three months earlier than planned.
During the seven month-long, closure, the existing Wellington Street on ramp will be demolished and a new one built. The tunnel entrance and lanes on the southern approach to the tunnel will also be completed.
Acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton, says these are significant works that could result in unacceptable delays to traffic if the on ramp stayed open.
"By closing the on ramp we will avoid creating chaos on the motorway and open the tunnel three months earlier than planned." Mr Mutton says.
The entire Victoria Park Tunnel project - Including opening the third lane through the tunnel, reconfiguring the existing Victoria Park viaduct for four lanes of southbound traffic, and State Highway 1 through St Marys Bay - will be completed in March next year, two months ahead of schedule.
Closing Wellington Street will affect mainly commuters from the North Shore and Rodney areas leaving the CBD during the afternoon peak, and residents from nearby Ponsonby and Freemans Bay who use the on ramp to access the Northern Motorway.
Mr Mutton says the crunch time for the CBD road network will be between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays. Changes will be made to light phases on streets leading to the Fanshawe Street on ramp to ensure it can cope with additional traffic. These would include removing the right-turns from Beaumont Street to Fanshawe Street.
"We will also be encouraging people to try the northbound Port Link for a quicker exit from the CBD," he says.
Other actions commuters can take to avoid delays are to change travel times to avoid the afternoon peak, use public transport, or carpool.
Mr Mutton says Wellington Street was closed last year for three and a half months without significant impacts on central Auckland streets and with improved traffic flows on the motorway.
"Even with Rugby World Cup traffic on the network during this second closure, we are confident the efficient operation of the local road and motorway networks will not be jeopardised," says Mr Mutton. "As a contingency, the NZTA will work closely with Auckland Council and event planners to ensure that there is a prompt response to any issues that may arise."
An extensive communication campaign is being launched this week, encouraging affected commuters to plan ahead for the closure. It include a website that gives commuters information about the alternatives to the Wellington Street on ramp and other options for avoiding any delays when leaving the CBD to go north. The website will be publicised by billboards and radio, newspaper and online advertising.
The web address is: www.vicparktunnel.co.nz(external link)
When completed, the Victoria Park Tunnel will provide three lanes of northbound motorway traffic. It is one of seven roads of national significance identified by the Government as essential to New Zealand's economic prosperity. Together, the tunnel, the reconfigured existing viaduct and extra southbound capacity from the Newmarket Viaduct to Greenlane, will remove the last remaining bottleneck on the motorway network through central Auckland and provide more reliable and safer journeys.