Follow us on Twitter

Hill Street Blues

We’ve discussed Warkworth’s notorious Hill St intersection previously, but it seems timely to revisit again with the Board of Inquiry underway on the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road and NZTA’s recent press release on the subject:

The NZ Transport Agency says its priority to improve traffic flows in the Warkworth area is to first construct a new highway between Puhoi and Warkworth before it upgrades the community’s Hill Street intersection.

“I acknowledge that many in the community want Hill Street upgraded as soon as possible, but it is important that we have a reliable alternative route in place first for people before we tackle Hill Street,” says the Transport Agency’s State Highway Manager, Tommy Parker.

Mr Parker says upgrading the intersection and the state highway and five local roads that feed into it will be a complex task that will take some time to complete.

“There’s not a lot of room at the intersection and we will need to keep all those roads open during the upgrade. We estimate construction could take two summers to complete and that will mean considerable disruption for everyone – children from the nearby school, residents, local businesses and road users.

“Upgrading Hill Street, either in isolation or ahead of the new highway, will not provide substantial relief from congestion. It makes sense to construct the highway first to help us manage the disruption from that work and divert traffic away from the intersection.”

Before analysing NZTA’s announcement in more detail, here is a map of the current intersection:

Hill St Map

And the GIS view:

Hill St GIS

As you can imagine, the intersection turns into a real bottleneck at peak times, particularly in the summer months.

Traffic from Warkworth village heading to Matakana must turn right at a give way sign, across a lane of queued traffic, giving way to traffic from a number of directions concurrently. Traffic queues across the intersection can often block other traffic movements in other directions. In summary, it is a real mess.

Further down in their press release, NZTA mention a couple of other projects:

Mr Parker says the Transport Agency is working with Auckland Transport – Auckland Council’s transport body – to progress other options including the Matakana Link, which will connect with the new highway and bypass Hill Street to the region’s eastern beaches, the Western Collector in the town and the SH1/McKinney Road intersection south of the township.

Firstly, looking at the Western Collector:

western-collector

This is an AT sponsored project which is a complete bypass around Hill Street and central Warkworth. It starts at opposite McKinney Road in the south and ends at Hudson Road north of Hill Street. Anyone heading to or from the north on the existing SH1 will certainly use this, reducing pressure on Hill St. A number of intersections that make up the bypass have already been completed, but I can’t find any information via Google on when the missing links will be completed. It is supposed to happen before the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road, however.

Secondly, the Matakana Link is mentioned, crudely highlighted in blue on the map below. At this stage this is unfunded and does not form part of the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road project. However, without it the toll road will be useless for people wanting to travel to or from the Matakana area.

As currently scoped, the toll road will join 1.8 km north of the Hill Street intersection. Anyone travelling to Matakana on the new toll road will have to cover an extra 3 km at least to get to Hill Street, compared to using the existing SH1.

Puhoi Warkworth Northern Junction

So are NZTA right in delaying Hill Street by at least another 10 years? On the one hand, the scale of any new intersection could be reduced because of the Western Collector and the possibility of the Matakana link.

On the other hand, for Warkworth residents this is a long time to wait, so why not start now? Remember also that Warkworth residents won’t directly benefit from the new toll road either, as the fastest route south will still be the existing SH1, so they seem to be getting a rough deal from the announcement.

23 comments to Hill Street Blues

  • Fred

    Gives Labour & the Greens some nice talking points about doing this project ASAP. The Matakana link could be useful even without the holiday highway as a bypass of this mess.

  • Gary Young

    Would there be any benefit in blocking off the Sandspit to Matakana Rd junction and instead creating a short Sandspit Rd diversion so it makes a crossroads with Melwood Drive? That would move some vehicle movements away from the main troublespot and perhaps relieve some of the general confusion at Hill St.

    • Hamish O

      I don’t think that the intersection of Matakana and Sandpit Roads causes many problems. It works mostly like a merge coming into Warkworth and people don’t have any issues turning right towards Snell Beach. Most of the issues are at the Elizabeth St / Sandspit Road intersection for the reasons Cameron mentioned and the traffic light which lacks sufficient capacity (only one lane exiting the junction from the south).

  • Bryce P

    Just build the bypass and the Matakana link. Don’t do anything with the Hill St intersection until after then.

  • Hamish O

    The Western Collector is not suitable as a bypass of Warkworth. Is designed for local traffic and with the number of uncontolled right turns it would quickly be congested if used by through traffic. What should be built first is a propper Warkworth bypass along the motorway alignment and the Matakana link road. The western collector and hill st upgrade can then be built as Warkworth as a town grows.

  • Loraxus

    So basically, they are arguing that they need several billion dollar for a construction bypass? Nice, Tommy.

  • Bevan Woodward

    What really concerns me about the Hill Street intersection is the lack of crossing amenity for pedestrians. There is only ONE pedestrian crossing in this entire intersection (on the southern arm of Brown Road, SH1). It is horrific watch the school children each morning and afternoon trying to cross from the northern side to access Warkworth Primary School.

    No wonder so many parents drive their children and hence the daily congestion.

    I have have multiple meetings onsite with NZTA staff to highlight the issue and they all nod their heads in agreement on how bad this is and how easily it could be rectified (simply add pedestrian phases at the appropriate times to sync with the existing traffic phases), but nothing has happened for at least 2 years now. It seems that NZTA is so geared up for monster projects and entrapped in its convoluted BCR mentality, it’s incapable of the small but vital improvements needed for vulnerable road users.

    • PS1

      +1 School crossings and safe foorpaths/cycleways to schools and shops seems such and obvious first priority. And then people could walk or bike to school with our kids and free up the commute times.

      The angle for the labour/ greens is exactly how they won the Auckland Mayoralty. Have a vision for NZ to make it the most liveable country using good design and efficient trains and transport to create a prosperous country for all. Start with the rail link and then down the country. And then if the roads still need fixing have a look at it.

      • Bob

        Yes, this point has been well made in many previous posts on this blog. Does not seem like NZTA have taken much notice though.

        • PS1

          True Bob. I guess there is a hope that if we keep making the point then either NZTA will get it or if not NZTA then the politicians who want our vote. So we need to keep letting it be known that some of us are voting for seperated rail, cycleways, streetscaping, and footpaths, not just big motorway projects.

  • mfwic

    I think it is more a matter making sure any reduction in delay occurs after the rons is committed. If you reduce delay now then the B/C analysis would have to reflect that reduction and there big project would go south.

    • Yeah good point. Hard to justify spending a billion dollars when you have already achieved the projected time savings with tens of millions.

      Or they could just try the Operation Life Saver idea (see links above) and start saving lives and time soon instead of in ten years time. But that would definitely scupper any justification for a big boys’ toy motorway.

      • Sam

        maybe it has more to do with the fact that to fix this intersection requires a major feat of engineering that is made substantially more difficult by the shear volume of traffic that uses it, ultimately leading to much higher costs. Providing the by-pass would make it much easier to construct and as the volume of traffic using it would be less would mean that the scale/cost of the project could be reduced. But hey don’t let any reasonable reasoning get in the way of you cr@pping over everybody.

        Maybe people need to have a bit more an informed view of how engineering works rather than throwing out ill informed proposals

        • Although after completion of the Puhoi – Warkworth toll road, modelling suggests that the volume of traffic using the existing SH1 will be similar to what it is today. Without the Matakana Link Road it is hard to see how traffic through Hill Street will be any less.

          • Sam

            I haven’t seen the traffic models so I cant argue but I would assume that Omaha peeps would still be heading out there during the holidays. For the remainder of the time the bulk of the through traffic would not be there so the turning movements would be quite different and potentially more balanced. My original comment still stands that if the by-pass and/or the matakana link went in then the issue of Hill Street would be much easier to deal with.

        • I dont understand your point. What “ill informed” proposal are you referring to? Operation Lifesaver (which advocates a bypass of Warkworth)? Have you looked at it?

          I didnt make a proposal. I support the bypass – in fact I would like to see the proposed part of the P2W holiday highway built now as a bypass to Warkworth. I think that would solve at least the majority of the problems on that road right now. I think the link road to Matakana is also a good idea.

          “you cr@pping over everybody” – how am I crapping on anybody? I am just agreeing with mfwic that if there was a smaller project here that solved the problem and got the time savings projected for the whole P2W holiday highway, then it becomes almnost impossible to justify that massive white elephant project.

          You seem to be very angry about something; I just dont know what.

          • mfwic

            I am with Goosoid here. Neither of us made an ad hominem comment. We just noted in different ways that fixing part of the existing problem doesn’t help the case for a much larger project particularly if the case is already weak. Second Hill St is not a major engineering project when viewed against the scale of works needed for the proposed highway. I fully expect to see a firm commitment to Hill St after the consenting and funding for the rons is locked in place. But then I am a hard bitten old cynic.

  • George

    Sledgehammer to crack a nut, I believe they call this.

    So much wasteful spending from the Key-Joyce-Brownlee Government.

  • Bob

    I’m not even sure why the Puhoi-Wellsford road should go anywhere near Warkworth. Going further inland (and avoiding the difficult Dome Valley) should have been the first priority. Warkworth still needs a by pass either way. Running trucks through a built up residential streets is soemthing you dont see much in Australia anymore, NZTA need to adopt similar policies.

  • gazzamac

    how many people here actually drive this road regularly (IE at least once a week?). Dome valley upgrading would be the biggest improvement their were 4 major crashes in the past week alone.

    • I drive it around once a month and it’s pretty common to get a 30-60 minute stop-start southbound queue thru Warkworth on a Sunday afternoon. Incremental changes could ease this pain significantly right now. Such as intelligent phasing of the lights based on traffic volume. Road widening and simplification of the intersection. What about a roundabout or a pedestrian overbridge??

      • Robert B

        I used to travel through it every weekend a couple of years ago, and if you picked your times, you were unlucky to get stuck, though it did happen, particularly on holiday weekends. Like many other people here, I can’t see the point of a highway when cheaper, simpler (less-sexy) solutions would do the trick. And if I get stuck in traffic twice a year, too bad. I’d rather spend my transport dollar more efficiently.

        As a side note, the existing toll road seems to have considerably reduced the number of times I got stuck in Warkworth, but I suspect it has increased the amount of through traffic. Once upon a time I would consider taking highway 16, but since the route via Warkworth is so much faster now, the difference is too great (it’s still a nice view!). And forget those crying-wolf NZTA signs they put up on long weekends which say “Queues at Warkworth, Consider alternative SH16 route”. There seems to be no connection to the actual traffic conditions. You are almost always better off going via Warkworth.

Leave a Reply