One of the most significant changes to Auckland driving conditions for half a century will be made tomorrow morning (Monday 9 January) when the NZ Transport Agency opens the Victoria Park flyover on State Highway 1 in a new layout to carry four lanes of southbound traffic.
The fifty year old flyover beside Auckland's CBD carried two-way traffic until last November, when northbound traffic was diverted into the recently completed Victoria Park tunnel.
Tomorrow morning's change will help improve traffic flows southbound on one of the most heavily congested sections of the city's motorway network, says the NZTA's acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton.
"The impact from the change will be very significant for drivers. In its new layout, the flyover will be able to carry up to 6000 southbound vehicles an hour - nearly double its previous capacity," Mr Mutton says.
In addition to the changes on the flyover, drivers will benefit from an additional southbound traffic lane through St Marys Bay and the upgraded motorway off ramp at Fanshawe Street. A dedicated bus lane for city bound travellers through St Marys Bay will also open.
"Once drivers have become used to the changes, we should see traffic flowing more freely instead of the queues which have been an almost daily experience for those heading south over this critical section of motorway," says Mr Mutton. "The flyover is such an important link for communities and businesses on both sides of the harbour, and our improvements will help make it easier and safer for both people and freight to travel around the city."
Since the opening of the Victoria Park tunnel, the NZTA and its contractors have been getting the flyover ready for Monday's changes, and Mr Mutton thanked drivers for their patience during the significant work completed during the Christmas break.
"Drivers will need to take extra care on their trips across the flyover until they become used to the new layout, and the need to be in the correct lane to avoid ending up in the wrong place."
Because of the flyover's central barrier, drivers will not be able to change lanes when they are crossing it.
The lanes to the right of the central barrier - the old northbound lanes - only go south on SH1 to destinations in south Auckland and beyond. The lanes to the left of the barrier will take drivers off SH1 at Cook Street for the Auckland CBD, east to the port down Grafton Gully, or connect west with the Northwestern Motorway (SH16)
"It is very important that people plan their drive before they start, so that they know which lane they need to be in. They should then choose their correct lane as early as possible - preferably on the northern approaches to the harbour bridge - to avoid dangerous lane changes and weaving through St Marys Bay," Mr Mutton says. "This is a big change as far as driving in Auckland is concerned and people need to take extra care, especially while the changes are being 'bedded down'."
"We will have new overhead signs in place, starting on the northern side of the harbour bridge, to help drivers choose their correct lane."
Work on the Victoria Park Tunnel project began in November 2009 and has included construction of the motorway tunnel. Northbound traffic began using two lanes in the tunnel in November. The tunnel's third lane, and other capacity improvements for northbound traffic, will open in March.
Mr Mutton says the project will be the first completed of the government's roads of national significance, prioritised to support New Zealand's economic growth. It will provide more reliable trip times for freight, and reduce costs and delays for businesses.
Further improvements to ease congestion through central Auckland will occur during Auckland Anniversary Weekend (28-30 January) when the Newmarket Viaduct's new northbound lanes are opened to traffic. A section of Southern Motorway northbound will need to be closed for 36 hours during the holiday weekend to allow the NZTA to switch traffic to the new viaduct.
Drivers can view a video animation of the new flyover layout on the NZTA website: www.nzta.govt.nz/aklsummerseason(external link),
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