Maintenance work on state highways in Northland and Auckland will stop for a Christmas break this week as part of a NZ Transport Agency initiative to help ease congestion and keep traffic flowing for holiday travellers.
The holiday shutdown will start in Northland on Wednesday (18 December) and in Auckland on Friday (20 December). Work resumes in both regions from Monday, 6 January.
The Transport Agency’s Highways Manager, Tommy Parker, says maintenance is essential to keep state highways in a safe and good condition, but it may involve lane closures and diversions.
“Unless there’s an emergency, we’ll be holding back on our work for a couple of weeks to give people on holiday Christmas priority. Highways in both regions will be busy and everything will be done to help make sure people have a smooth and safe journey.”
With schools starting to close for summer, holiday traffic is already starting to build on highways between Auckland and Waikato/Bay of Plenty and Auckland and Northland.
One of the busiest highways will be the Northern Gateway Toll Road on SH1 north of Auckland. Last Christmas holiday there was an average of 19,900 trips a day – the busiest day was 2 January when there were 23,500 trips. The yearly average for the toll road is 15,000 trips per day.
“The tremendous increase in holiday traffic on the toll road indicates just how busy highways will be in Auckland and Northland, and the need for drivers to plan their trips and to allow plenty of time for a safe journey. The risk of a crash increases at this time of year because there is more traffic and more congestion.”
Mr Parker says the Transport Agency is supporting the Police/ACC summer campaign against excess speed to help keep people safe. Drivers will be penalised if caught exceeding legal speed limits by more than 4kph.
During the past 5 official Christmas/New year holiday periods, there have been 7 fatalities on Auckland highways and roads and 36 people have been seriously injured. In Northland, there have been 3 fatalities, and 30 people have been seriously injured.
“Speed – together with alcohol – are prominent factors in many of those crashes. They are both avoidable killers.”
Mr Parker says there were actions drivers could also take to help keep them and their families safe.
The Transport Agency reminds people planning to use the toll road that the manual payment kiosks accept only coins now.
The kiosks expect to process up to 1200 transactions daily and queues are likely. People can avoid delays be going on-line at www.tollroad.govt.nz(external link) or using the Transport Agency contact centre freephone 0800 40 20 20 to pay for individual trips or open accounts before they travel.
The contact centre will be open Monday-Friday 8am-8pm, but will be closed on Christmas Day and during weekends.
There are two free alternative routes to the toll roads: the Hibiscus Coast Highway between the Silverdale interchange on State Highway 1 and Puhoi, or SH16 between the Silverdale interchange and Wellsford.
The Transport Agency reminds drivers of safety changes to the SH1/Wayby Valley Road intersection south of Wellsford. A temporary northbound right-turn bay on SH1 with improved vision of on-coming traffic is operating as part of an upgrade of the intersection.
“Drivers should always expect the unexpected, especially on our regions’ rural highways and roads,” Mr Parker says “They will be busier with a lot more people – cars, trucks, people towing caravans and boats, motorcyclists and cyclists. The Transport Agency’s wish is for people and families to celebrate the holiday season as safely as they can.”
The following will help people plan safer holidays: