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Wellington holidaymakers - plan your journeys before you pack the boot

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To wait in traffic, or not wait in traffic? If you do your homework, the choice could be yours this Labour Weekend.

The NZ Transport Agency is urging Wellington motorists to put planning their journeys on the pre-holiday ‘to do list’. To make this easier, the Transport Agency has released travel data to help motorists dodge the delays this Labour Weekend*. (See attached and feel free to publish)

Regional performance manager Mark Owen says national traffic maps, collated by analysing traffic data from previous Labour Weekends, will help give motorists a heads-up about when the highways are likely to be at their busiest as holidaymakers stream in and out of the Capital.

“Labour Weekend is a welcome curtain-raiser for the summer holidays, and we want journeys to go as smoothly and safely as possible for Wellington holidaymakers.

“If you get stuck in traffic, it can add frustration to what should be a time of relaxation. Thanks to this data, people can avoid the worst queues by planning their journeys before they even pack the boot.”

Dodge the delays

Mr Owen says that while not everyone will be able to leave work early on Friday or return on Monday morning, those who do will spend less time in traffic.

The busiest times to travel are on Friday later afternoon to early evening and Saturday morning for outbound traffic, and Monday afternoon to early evening for inbound traffic (especially north of the Otaki roundabout).

“If you’re coming back on Monday afternoon, you’re highly likely to hit heavy traffic north of Otaki, so you may want to think about stopping in Foxton or Levin for a break beforehand. If you pack up the bach early, you’re likely to dodge the delays.”

“If you’ve had enough of traffic jams north of Otaki, the good news is that their days are numbered. Next year, construction is scheduled to begin on the Peka Peka to Otaki Expressway, which will provide a four lane modern highway that will completely bypass this perennial holiday bottleneck.”

The SH2 Rimutaka Hill Road is also likely to get busy, and motorists are urged to take care and be patient.

Mr Owen urges motorists to check online before hitting the highway in case there’s any unwelcome surprises for them such as crashes or road closures.

“We’ve got more information at our disposal than ever before, and if we put it to good use, we can take some of the stress out of holiday travel.”

Mr Owen says all scheduled roadworks will be put on hold over the long weekend.

“The last thing anyone wants is roadworks delaying their trip to the bach, so we’re stopping all scheduled roadworks to give motorists as much of a clear run as possible.”

Crews will patrol the network to ensure that any hazards or slips can be cleared up quickly.

Mr Owen says there are plenty of ways for the public to keep up to date with traffic conditions so they can make informed travel choices and reduce the chance of experiencing delays during high traffic flows on the highway. People can check out the new live travel maps on the Transport Agency's website(external link), call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS, or visit the Transport for Wellington site (www.tfw.govt.nz(external link)).

The @nztawgtn and @nztacni Twitter feeds   will be providing live updates all day Friday and on Monday afternoon.

Passing lane closures to stymie queue-jumpers

During peak travel times, the Transport Agency will be closing the SH1 northbound passing lane, north of Te Horo, as well as the southbound passing lane, north of Otaki.

The closure of the northbound passing lane will take effect from mid-morning on Friday 23 October and reopen mid to late afternoon Saturday 24 October, subject to traffic flows.

On Monday 26 October, NZTA will close the SH 1 southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, just prior to midday and will reopen later that evening when traffic returns to normal

Mr Owen says the closure of the passing lanes, which is supported by Police, is done to improve safety and traffic flows during the holiday peaks.

“We close the passing lanes during peak times as it prevents queue jumping and the cumulative slowing of traffic flow caused by queue-jumpers merging back in.  By closing the passing lanes when the highway is chocka, traffic flow improves and the risk of nose to tail crashes goes down.

“Closing passing lanes during holiday peaks actually means more vehicles get through and it’s safer for everyone.”

Getting there safely

The Transport Agency says everyone has a role to play in keeping people safe on our roads this Labour Day Weekend.

Roads across New Zealand (in your area) are expected to be busy this weekend as people make the most of the first long weekend break after winter.

“Increased traffic volumes, tiredness and driving in unfamiliar environments can make driving over these long weekends not only more stressful but also more risky,” says the Transport Agency’s Safety Director Ernst Zöllner.
“Remember you’re sharing the road with many others, you have a responsibility to be courteous and patient to ensure you look after yourself, your families and other road users.”

Many of the roads around holiday destinations are narrow and winding, that makes the consequences of making a mistake potentially more dangerous.

“They are not designed for high speeds so adjust your driving to avoid mistakes and make it easier to manoeuvre out of those mistakes if they do happen.”

“Don’t think of the speed limit as a target to aim for, instead drive at a speed that is safe for the type of road, the weather conditions and the number of vehicles on the road.”

“Think of the time getting to your destination as part of your ‘weekend away’, make the most of being together with friends or family even if it is in the car, relax and enjoy your journey, that way everyone’s more likely to arrive safely.”

Labour Weekend congestion hotspots

Download the Labour Weekend congestion hotspots [PDF, 192 KB]

The tables provide a snapshot of highway routes, dates and times where traffic congestion was particularly heavy during Labour Weekend for previous years. It’s likely that congestion will be similarly heavy on these dates and times this coming holiday period, and we advise motorists to consider avoiding travel during the times of heaviest congestion, listed in bold type.

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