Central Auckland's Wellington Street motorway on-ramp is closing on Sunday night (1 May) and the NZ Transport Agency says the seven month-long closure will help it deliver the Victoria Park Tunnel project to drivers ahead of schedule.
The existing on ramp will be demolished and a new one built. The tunnel entrance and lanes on the southern approach to the tunnel will also be completed.
'These are significant works and there could be unacceptable delays to traffic, particularly at peak times, if Wellington Street remained open during this time," says the NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker.
When the on ramp reopens in November, two of the tunnel's three lanes will also be available for drivers - three months earlier than planned. The entire Victoria Park Tunnel project - Including opening the third lane through the tunnel, reconfiguring the existing Victoria Park viaduct for four lanes of southbound traffic, and widening State Highway 1 through St Marys Bay - will be completed in March next year, two months ahead of schedule.
Mr Parker says the closure will keep delays on State Highway 1 through central Auckland to a minimum, and provide contractors with more safety while working beside one of the busiest sections of the city's motorway network.
'The support we had from drivers when we closed Wellington Street for three-and-a-half months last year was tremendous and we can repay that this time by delivering the first stages of the project earlier than planned just before the start of Christmas and the summer holidays." Mr Parker says.
The NZTA is working closely with Auckland Council, Auckland Transport and organisers of the Rugby World Cup to ensure that there is a prompt response to any issues that may arise from the on ramp closure.
"Even with Rugby World Cup traffic on the network during this closure, we are confident the efficient operation of the local road and motorway networks will not be jeopardised," says Mr Parker.
Closing Wellington Street will affect mainly commuters from the North Shore and Rodney areas leaving the CBD during the afternoon peak, and residents from nearby Ponsonby and Freemans Bay who use the on ramp to access the Northern Motorway.
The critical time for the CBD road network will be between 4pm and 6pm on weekdays. Drivers are encouraged to use the northbound Port Link on State Highway 16 up Grafton Gully for a quicker exit from the central city. Changes will be made to traffic light phases to assist traffic flows. Changes will also be made to light phases on streets leading to the Fanshawe Street on ramp west of the CBD to ensure it can cope with additional traffic. These include removing the right-turns from Beaumont Street to Fanshawe Street.
Other actions commuters can take to avoid delays are to change travel times to avoid the afternoon peak, use public transport, or carpool.