Having been foiled by the weather for the past few nights, the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) has now opened the fourth motorway lane across the new southbound Newmarket Viaduct. The expanded capacity will provide faster and more reliable peak time travel on the Southern Motorway (State Highway 1) from the central city to Greenlane.
The new lane was scheduled to have opened last Sunday, however successive nights of bad weather forced the postponement of final line marking work. Despite a heavy fog last night, the final works were completed and the expanded motorway layout opened in time for this morning's southbound commute.
The NZTA's State Highways Manager for Auckland, Tommy Parker, says the fourth lane will provide immediate benefits for both the city and its people.
"The extra capacity releases the benefits of previous upgrades through Auckland's Central Motorway Junction (CMJ), reducing peak-hour southbound journeys to Greenlane by up to five minutes, and providing more reliable travel times for commuters coming from both the south and the west," says Mr Parker. "These improvements and their associated fuel savings will be worth over $1M a week to Auckland's economy."
The Newmarket Viaduct is currently being replaced as part of the NZTA's $215M Newmarket Connection: Viaduct Replacement Project. The extra lane was factored into the design of the new viaduct to address the traditional peak-hour bottleneck associated with the original three-lane southbound bridge. Thanks to an innovative staged approach to project delivery, the NZTA has been able to realise this key benefit midway through the replacement project - and importantly, ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
While the new motorway lane will provide immediate congestion relief benefits in central Auckland, Mr Parker says it should be viewed within the context of the NZTA's long-term regional plan to improve traffic flows on the city's motorway network.
"The additional capacity provided by the new lane will put extra pressure at peak times on the Greenlane interchange and further south at Ellerslie/Panmure. The NZTA will be working with our partners at Auckland Transport to monitor the opening and ensure traffic flows as smoothly and safely as possible."
Mr Parker adds that the Newmarket Viaduct upgrade is one of a suite of projects that have been commissioned to address journey time reliability and safety as the NZTA works with its regional partners to provide a sustainable transport solution for an ever-growing city.
"Two key parts of our long term vision are the Victoria Park Tunnel project at the north end of the CMJ, and the completion of the Western Ring Route as a viable motorway alternative to State Highway 1. We're looking forward to breaking ground on the Western Ring Route's final link, the Waterview Connection project, later this year."
Drivers are reminded that the reduced 70kph speed limit still applies in both directions across the Newmarket Viaduct, as the area remains a live construction zone. Drivers exiting at Greenlane are advised to expect a slightly longer queue due to the faster arrival rate of vehicles at the off-ramp.
The Newmarket Connection: Viaduct Replacement Project, which is being completed in four stages of construction and deconstruction, is due to be completed in December 2012. The current stage (2) sets the project apart as a genuine world first, as it employs unprecedented engineering techniques to dismantle the southbound half of the original viaduct between two live motorway carriageways.
NZTA's Auckland State Highways Manager Tommy Parker, Dr Cam Calder MP, Councillor Mike Lee, Newmarket Connection Project Manager Ian Harbeck and NZTA Project Manager Simon Paton stand in front of the alignment for the new fourth southbound motorway lane, which was opened across the Newmarket Viaduct and on to Greenlane overnight.
With work ongoing between the two motorway carriageways, all drivers are requested to respect the reduced 70kph speed limit across the Newmarket Viaduct.