The best-laid plans: Delays to SH1C intersection work in Hillcrest


Please choose routes that avoid driving through Hamilton city’s State Highway 1C (SH1C) intersection at Cobham Drive and Cambridge Road if you can. That’s the message from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, as the project to improve the busy Hillcrest intersection has run into an unexpected delay.

Work on the long-awaited improvements to the intersection was carefully planned to begin in early January.

“This was so that as much as possible could be done over the holiday period while there was less traffic and fewer people commuting or trying to get to school,” says Jo Wilton, Waka Kotahi Regional Manager for Infrastructure Delivery.

“Our aim was to return SH1C to two lanes in each direction by early February to minimise disruption while the rest of the works were completed by around the end of June.

“Despite careful investigation during the design phase, including using ground-penetrating radar and examining all available records, it was not apparent that the water mains located at a depth of up to 1.6m under the worksite were at risk of damage with the proposed works. 

“We agreed with Hamilton City Council that we would temporarily stop work while we found solutions, to avoid this risk,” she says.

Waka Kotahi and Hamilton City Council staff are working closely to resolve the issue. Some of the original pipes can remain, protected with a concrete cap, and the remainder will be removed and replaced.

This means SH1C will remain one-lane only in each direction for several more weeks, and there will also be some full closures from 7pm to 7am while water mains are re-laid. The dates for these night-time closures will be shared as soon as they are confirmed.

All of this means the overall project timeframes have been pushed back around four to six weeks, with an anticipated finish now likely in August, weather-depending.

“It does mean significantly more disruption in the area, which will cause frustration,” Ms Wilton says. “It will be particularly challenging for the parents and caregivers of children at Hillcrest Normal School during pick-up and drop-off times.”

Waka Kotahi is working with the school community as well as with the Hamilton City Council’s school travel co-ordination team to find options and solutions, including alternative pick-up and drop-off points.

Waka Kotahi advises people to choose other routes and avoid the area if at all possible until the project is completed. “People will be able to map out their best options using the Waka Kotahi Journey Planner,” says Ms Wilton. “It’s the best tool to use before travelling, as it provides real-time updates on the network.”

The upgrades to this intersection will not only significantly improve safety through this residential area, which has many people walking and cycling through the neighbourhood, but will also help future-proof this busy commuter route.

The old roundabout was no longer fit for purpose due to increasing traffic volumes. The changes to the intersection, together with the completion of the Waikato Expressway and the Cobham Drive interchange, are the final pieces to allow the benefits of the Hamilton Ring Road to be fully realised. Collectively, these improvement projects will reduce intra-regional traffic and the traffic that uses local Cambridge Road as a shortcut through Hillcrest.

While people may have noticed that peak time delays at the intersection were reduced with the recent completion of the Waikato Expressway, population growth in Hamilton continues and the Peacocks development project that is underway will contribute significantly to traffic growth at this intersection.

“We expect SH1C to remain a busy route through the city,” says Ms Wilton.

Waka Kotahi appreciates everybody’s patience while the works continue, and remind people that local Cambridge Road will remain left-in and left-out only while the work is underway. There is no longer an option to turn right from local Cambridge Road into Cobham Drive heading west; this is a permanent change.

The access to properties and businesses will be maintained at all times, and people are asked to follow the instructions of the traffic controllers when moving through the site, which has a speed restriction of 30 km/hr.