With traffic expected to be heavy over Labour Weekend the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is advising motorists to allow time for potential delays, and to take care in the event of bad weather.
Wellington Operations Manager Mark Owen says motorists heading out on their Labour Weekend holidays should allow time for delays from heavy traffic, and with bad weather expected, to drive to the conditions and to exercise great care.
"We're asking motorists to allow extra time and take care this Labour Weekend when heading out on the highways, and to make the most of their journeys rather than rush them."
Mr Owen says NZTA will be working with NZ Police to manage congestion through Otaki. He says the holiday weekend will also be a good test for the new pedestrian traffic signal crossing in Otaki township, providing a controlled, safe crossing point for pedestrians, while minimising delays to SH 1 traffic.
Mr Owen says safer journeys during the holiday period relied on a combination of safe drivers, safe vehicles, safe speeds, and safer roads.
He says people should plan their journeys well in advance, drive with patience and avoid taking chances when turning or overtaking.
"Driving with courtesy can keep traffic flowing smoothly and helps ensure the roads remain safe. We also urge motorists to check their vehicles before heading off, keep their eyes peeled on the roads, and to enjoy the journey rather than rushing and putting themselves and others at risk."
The NZTA will stop all road works on the State Highway network over this period from 12.30pm on Friday 19 October until 9.00am on Tuesday 23 October. This excludes any work needed to be done for emergency purposes and routine maintenance activities.
During peak travel times, NZTA will be closing the SH 1 northbound passing lanes north of Te Horo, as well as the southbound passing lane, north of Otaki.
The closure of the northbound passing lanes will take effect from 10am on Friday 19 October and reopen mid to late afternoon on Saturday 20 October, subject to traffic flows.
On Monday 22 October, NZTA will close the SH1 southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, from 10.00am and will reopen it around 8.00pm, depending on traffic volumes. The lane approaching the roundabout in Otaki may also be closed subject to traffic build up, to reduce congestion from merging.
Mr Owen says the closure of the passing lanes, which are supported by the Police, is done for safety purposes and to improve traffic flows.
"Passing lanes are only effective when traffic is flowing freely. When roads are chocka block, using passing lanes is like having two queues for the same bank teller.
"During busy holiday periods, vehicles tend to get backed up by the heavy traffic volumes, rather than vehicles travelling too slowly up ahead. In heavy traffic, people may try to jump the queue then attempt to merge back into the traffic jam. This causes people to brake suddenly, which can upset the gradual but steady traffic flow, and cause nose to tail crashes.
"That's the reason the passing lanes are closed when the roads are at capacity - more vehicles get through per hour due to the smoother flow of traffic, while also improving safety."
"The lanes will be appropriately signposted and fenced off with traffic cones, but we're reminding people to obey the normal road rules by keeping left.
"If traffic remains heavy, passing lanes will remain closed longer until we are satisfied traffic flows have reduced."
Mr Owen says the NZTA will be trialling initiatives to manage returning traffic through Otaki this Labour weekend in order to ease congestion that regularly builds on State Highway 1 at holiday periods.
On Monday (22 October) NZTA plans to close Mill Road to traffic heading east through the roundabout and limit access in and out of Arthur Street in order to give returning southbound travellers a steadier trip home should traffic delays occur.
NZTA Operations Manager for Wellington Mark Owen says these measures, along with the closure of the southbound passing lane south of Forrest Lakes Road, are expected to help ease holiday-related traffic delays that have become a common cause of frustration for road users on SH1.
“We appreciate that people don’t like being held up when they are simply want to get home after a relaxing time away. The best way for us to address this is to try closing Mill Road to stop people cutting across southbound traffic on SH1 and stop people from turning right into or out of Arthur Street on the highway as this holds up the flow of traffic. By reducing the conflict between highway travellers and people making local trips, we hope to improve everyone’s journeys,” Mr Owen says.
The peak time for holiday traffic is likely to happen between 2.00pm and 5.00pm on Monday 22 October and motorists are advised to plan ahead and avoid travelling through Otaki at these times, if possible.
NZTA has been working with the Otaki Community Board, Kapiti Coast District Council, NZ Police and the AA to address the problem of return journey congestion for some time.
People will still be able to access SH1 when Mill Road is closed by travelling along Dunstan Street and Waerenga Road. These roads will also provide access in and out of Arthur Street.
Mr Owen says changes for northbound travellers are not currently required at Otaki as traffic heading away for holiday periods is spread over a longer timeframe.
If the trial is successful NZTA will look at using these initiatives again during Wellington Anniversary Weekend to alleviate holiday-related traffic congestion.