I have found myself making a number of trips over the past week or so along the stretch of State Highway 1 immediately north of Auckland. Both times I’ve gone north the traffic has been pretty bad, but in rather unexpected ways which have provided me with some quite useful insights. I’ll run through these briefly before getting on to what this could mean in terms of some sensible improvements to this road.
- Firstly, the concept that we make massive transport investments based on the state of the road for a few days a year is completely silly. It’d be like forcing shopping malls to build carparks big enough for the Boxing Day sales… oh wait, we do that.
- Both times going north the first area of delay has been between where the motorway cuts down to two lanes just before the Johnston Hill tunnels, and just north of Puhoi. This is not surprising due to New Zealand drivers being unable to merge. Interestingly though the traffic seemed to improve by the time we got to Schedewys Hill and north of that, until….
- The next area of delay was around Warkworth, once again caused by the merge before the Warkworth bridge (why on earth wasn’t that duplicated as part of the widening of SH1 through Warkworth? The mess of the Hill Street intersection creates a lot of problems here too, particularly for southbound traffic on SH1.
- In addition there have been odd areas with nasty traffic. Like between Warkworth and Matakana on one day in late December. Changes to SH1 won’t do anything to solve these problems except get more vehicles to them quicker.
Using “Operation Lifesaver” as a guide for our thinking, the main elements of that scheme would solve a lot of the issues that I’ve experienced. In particular a bypass of Warkworth would solve congestion problems caused by Warkworth and separate out traffic heading north of Warkworth from traffic heading to the eastern beaches and from traffic heading to Warkworth itself. Something like what’s shown below – with the red being the proposed Puhoi-Wellsford route, the blue being a connection between the existing road and the Warkworth bypass and green being a connection to the road heading to Matakana and the other eastern beaches.
The other area where some improvement seem like they’d be good value is immediately north of the Johnston Hill tunnels, with the existing road being widened to two lanes northbound for another kilometre or so to ease the merging movement until after all the lanes coming together have sorted themselves out. So perhaps a bit past the Puhoi River bridge – once again something that probably wouldn’t cost very much in comparison to the whole scheme.
There’s also an interesting debate to be had around Wellsford I think. Although having SH1 going right through the town causes delays it does seem as though Wellsford is very reliant on SH1′s through traffic for its economic survival.