Right on queue we get a full page spread from the Herald about traffic queues.

Wet weather, a serious crash and the post-Christmas rush combined to bring bumper-to-bumper congestion on long sections of highways and travel misery to holidaymakers.

Police described some traffic as a “rolling carpark” and urged calm as queues of up to 20km yesterday greeted motorists escaping Auckland, in the holiday hot-spot of the Coromandel Peninsula and north of Wellington.


Highways north and south of Auckland were crowded as thousands left the city for their New Year holiday.

Auckland Arts Festival Trust chairwoman Victoria Carter was among those caught driving north. A frequent user of the road, she said she had never known the queue to Warkworth to be as long.

“We got to the (Johnstones Hill) tunnel at 11am and there was a queue coming out of the tunnel as we arrived at it and we were hoping it was not the queue for Warkworth … and it was.

“We crawled to Warkworth at an average speed of 15-20km/h … It looks like the congestion stemmed from the traffic lights in Warkworth.”

Transport Agency spokesman Anthony Frith said a 20km northbound queue formed on State Highway 1 to Warkworth from 10am.

Last month, the Government approved a fast-track consent process for a $760 million extension of the Northern Motorway to Warkworth.

The Transport Agency has not set a start date for the 18.5km four-lane extension from the Johnstones Hill tunnels, but construction is expected to start between 2015 and 2019 and end between 2020 and 2025.

The traffic lights at at Warkworth are definitely a problem need to be addressed but that doesn’t mean it needs a full offline motorway to do it. The most prudent thing to do would be to build the bypass part of the project first by way of a small section of road from the existing SH1 to the P2W route as shown below. An additional small section of road to link where the bypass joins back to SH1 across to Matakana Rd would eliminate almost all through traffic out of Warkworth.


After those two pieces of work have been completed, we could then see just what impact they would have on traffic patterns and congestion and allow us to see if a full motorway connection between Puhoi and Warkworth is really needed. If that motorway still stacks up (which I doubt it would) then very little has been lost as only the blue section in the map above (about 1.3km) would have been surplus to requirements. However depending on how it was designed, that blue link could eventually be used as a link to another interchange which would mean the project would actually be of some benefit to locals as what is currently proposed would actually be longer for locals to use than the existing road.

I’m almost certain the only reason this isn’t being pursued is that those in support of the project know it would kill what little justification there is for the rest of the project.

BTW – to someone who has a physical copy of the paper, what’s that rubbish in the top right corner with flying cars. If there were about to come on stream then wouldn’t that kill the need for many of the upgrades even more?

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      1. Which makes us excellent pilots? Oh right, driverless planes, way easier than driverless cars. Can’t wait for my flying car to blue screen during a failed update of the OS. Brings a whole new meaning to a computer crash!

  1. Although your first sentence is probably using artistic licence I would venture to suggest that the first use of the word “queue” should read “cue”??

    1. The Puhoi motorway is a key project of the Upper North Island Freight Story, and would likely be happening even if no cars used the road. The “holiday highway” propaganda is a side issue the media love, because they know holiday makers want it. But as with all the other big highway projects, it’s all about freight, not cars.

        1. Local freight trips are not relevant, the freight strategy is about the linehaul operations to and from Northland. The goal is a four lane truck highway from Whangarei to Tauranga. Keep an eye out for the next big project anouncement – a major new road over the Kaimai range, including a summit tunnel. A lot of work is being done on this.

        2. And so more HUGE subsidies for the trucking industry….
          PRIVATISING THE PROFIT! SOCIALISING THE COST! Or do you really believe the RUC’s from the freight companies will really pay for this pipe dream? Evidence?

        3. From memory the NZTA have already said that a tunnel through the Kaimai’s (of which a summit tunnel was one option) doesn’t even remotely stack up economically.

          Hamilton to Tauranga was listed on the last GPS as a potential future RoNS but considering the current RoNS are sucking up all of the funding and there is basically no capacity in the construction industry then I wouldn’t expect we will see anything happening on it any time soon. Also Warkworth to Whangarei is more likely to be a series of upgrades to the existing road through bypasses and curve easing but with it staying primarily single lane each way rather than a motorway/expressway standard. That part is likely to be paid for by using the money currently expected to be used for building Warkworth to Wellsford as they can’t find a viable route for an expressway standard road.

        4. This project was signed off well before the Upper North Island Freight Story, investigation of which is still ongoing.
          If was part of this is silly, because UNISA supposed to be about exports, and a huge majority of Northlands go through Marsden with only a small portion through Auckland.
          Also if it really was about trucks they would spend money upgrading the whole route, notably Dome Valley and the Brywnderwyns which would help trucks, general traffic and safety much more.

      1. We cannot afford this level of expenditure. How much would it cost to get 4 lanes past the Brenderwyns at motorway standard. Pipe dreams of the freight industry that our grand kids will be paying for. A far, far cheaper option is to fix the NAL and even look at a 2nd Kaimai rail tunnel.

        1. And use Whangarei’s port and the existing rail infrastructure, with that missing link from the port to the main trunk line. Costs way less than the billions being poured into beefing up the advantage of truckies.

  2. A bypass is already planned around Warkworth from McKinney Road to Hudson Road. This is called the Western Collector and will bypass the town centre and the Hill Road / Matakana intersection. It is proceeding irrespective of the Puhoi Warkworth RoNS. I don’t know the BCR but I think it would do a lot to address the periodic congestion that occurs, and hence delay the need for the Puhoi Warkworth toll road.

    There is a map on p.12 of this document. It forms the base case scenario for the Puhoi Warkworth RoNS. http://www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/puhoi-to-warkworth-application/docs/assessment-report-transportation.pdf

  3. If the Warkworth traffic lights are the issue as the person interviewed indicated, then why don’t the Police take control of the traffic lights in Warkworth and manage the traffic flows that way on these peak days?

    To better manage the extreme situation of these peaks, like they’d do for any large public event (say a big Airshow, Big Day Out event, or any one of half a dozen “traffic generating events” that happen in Auckland each year which are managed without making headlines in the Herald)..

    Seems to me that that would be a way to manage the issue for the short to medium term. And not a particularly expensive one either.

    I don’t think the traffic needs to flow at 100 k/hr during peak usage – just like the Auckland motorways don’t during the twice daily peaks.
    And in any case, if I read the story right, at 20k/hr it would take someone under 1 hr to get from Johnstones Hill tunnel to Warkworth, were presumably the traffic splits two ways – one up north and the other to Matakana.

    But really is it worth spending a large, or even a medium sized, pot of money on catering for 2 peaks a year (the one after Christmas, the one just before work resumes) to fix this issue?

    And how many people were actually inconvenienced yesterday by this?

    Lets say 166 vehicles per km (each car taking up 6 metres of road space at 20k/hr = 166 per km), times 1 lane north most of the way times 19 km (distance from Johnstones Hill to Warkworth).

    This comes to a grand total 3100 cars. Lets assume a average of 4 occupants per car (2 adults, 2 kids) = 12,400 “people” were inconvenienced/delayed by a under 1 hour on their many hour journeys.

    Would we spend any money to fix this sort of twice a year issue anywhere else in NZ? I think not.

    I don’t disagree with the by-pass idea, but even that is possibly extreme for the scale of this particular issue.

    I’d say try the traffic lights manual management idea should be tried first then look at other options as an when these other options prove to be ineffective.

    1. I think a bypass would be good for Warkworth. The highway through the town creates a lot of severance and would enable a road diet of the current SH1.

  4. I don’t for one moment believe that the problem was even as bad as this article makes out. I live about 11kms S of Warkworth and can see SH1 from my house. The queue back from Warkworth reached there at 10.30am on Friday. I joined this queue later in the day as I had to go to Warkworth and it took me 17 mins to travel the 11kms.

    Greg N is quite right. The police could easily solve this twice a year “problem”(it happens on 27th Dec and 2nd Jan every year). A pointsman or two at the Hill St junction in Warkworth and closing off the 2 passing lanes would help greatly until a) the Hill Street junction is finally sorted out and b) the Western Collector Warkworth by-pass is built.

    Motorists don’t seem to learn that by travelling North en-mass on the same days each year they will encounter the same problem.

    Out of interest, I had to travel today Sat 28th to Matakana from Warkworth and the traffic was horrendous (Sat market). 25mins to travel the last 4 kms. Perhaps I can suggest that they build a 4 lane highway to a motorway standard between Warkworth and Matakana to save this kind of terrible congestion and delay on this road twice a year?

    1. “Perhaps I can suggest that they build a 4 lane highway to a motorway standard between Warkworth and Matakana”

      Bound to be on the next list of Roads of Notional significance.

    2. Can someone explain to me why they think that manual control at the Hill St junction will help? If more priority was desired for traffic flow in a particular direction, then this can be applied via the lights, surely? It’s not like it needs to be adjusted every 5 minutes.

      1. I don’t really think the powers that be, really know what they are doing Errol. Also I think we must be related 🙂 Hi.

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