Something unusual is happening on Saturday night – the Wellington Urban Motorway is closing completely, for the first time in recent memory.
However, the closure is a brief one, and all steps are being undertaken to make it as painless as possible for the travelling public.
The NZ Transport Agency is urging the public to avoid the urban motorway between Thorndon and Ngauranga or allow extra time for their journeys if they’re planning to travel around Wellington after 10pm this Saturday, and northbound on Sunday morning. This is due to motorway closures required as part of building New Zealand’s first smart motorway.
On Saturday 1 August, State Highway 1 between Thorndon and Ngauranga will be closed in both directions for several hours overnight. The highway will remain open north of the Ngauranga Interchange, on both SH1 and SH2.
The motorway will be closed in the northbound direction (for people travelling out of the city) after 10pm Saturday until 10am Sunday morning while the old Kaiwharawhara off-ramp is connected to the Thorndon Overbridge as part of a new northbound lane. The 12 hour northbound closure is required to reduce vibration on the bridge while the concrete ‘stitch’ cures. The southbound lanes will be closed between Ngauranga and the Aotea off-ramp for up to eight hours between 10pm and 6am as two new overhead fixed-sign gantries are lifted into place.
Acting highways manager Mark Owen says the closure is being done overnight to keep disruption to a minimum, and the Hutt Road will be available as a detour route.
“Closing the whole motorway is something we avoid unless it’s absolutely necessary and we don’t take it lightly. To minimise the inconvenience for the public, we’re closing it during the night and getting the job done as quickly as possible.”
“If you’re heading north from the city on Sunday morning, bear in mind you’ll need to use the Hutt Road if you’re travelling before 10am, and this will take longer than your usual trip on the motorway. If you can, please your journey until after 10am, when the motorway will be completely reopened.
“If in doubt, just remember the electronic signs will tell you what to do.”
Mr Owen says the Transport Agency has timed the closure to begin well after the Petone Winter Carnival winds down. While motorists are urged to use buses to get to and from the event, people who choose to drive will have plenty of time to get home following the 8pm fireworks before the motorway closes. If people are staying out later, then the Hutt Road will remain available as a detour route.
During the Saturday night closure, southbound State Highway 1 traffic will be diverted from the highway at Ngauranga to travel along the Hutt Road. State Highway 2 traffic will exit the motorway at the Ngauranga off-ramp and then divert along the Hutt Road. In the northbound direction, drivers will be advised at points throughout the city to take the waterfront routes to avoid the closure. After the Terrace Tunnel, all remaining vehicles will be diverted off at the Tinakori off-ramp, along Tinakori Road and then the Hutt Road.
Mr Owen says this is the first of a series of eight motorway closures required as part of the smart motorway project. “Apart from the first closure, which includes connecting an old off-ramp to the Thorndon Overbridge, all the closures are to allow the overhead gantry structures, which hold either fixed or electronic signs, to be craned in and out.
“On Sunday night we’re closing the State Highway 2 off-ramp at Ngauranga to install an overhead gantry and on Monday night, the southbound lanes of the Ngauranga flyover will be closed while the first of the new electronic sign gantries is installed.
“The remaining closures will happen between mid-September and early October at dates still to be confirmed.” said Mr Owen.
“We’ve worked hard to minimise the number and duration of closures, but we can’t avoid them all together. We apologise for any inconvenience caused and we thank motorists for bearing with us while we work to create a smart motorway for a smart city.”
The full list of closures and detour maps is available from the website; www.nzta.govt.nz/smartmotorway(external link). Severe weather or other unforeseen circumstances could delay some closures so keep checking our website and follow us on Facebook (NZ Transport Agency-Wellington) and Twitter (@nztawgtn) for updates.
The closures are all part of putting the smarts into Wellington’s urban motorway. The smart motorway will operate between Johnsonville and the Terrace Tunnel. It’ll make travel times more predictable during peak times and free up nearby roads for better public transport trips and improved amenity for pedestrian and cyclists. It will also provide an extra northbound lane between the Aotea Quay on-ramp and Ngauranga, which will be incorporated into the existing motorway footprint. The smart motorway will begin operating early in 2016.