The State Highway 1 Ngauranga to Aotea Quay ‘Smart Motorway’ upgrade reaches a milestone this week as the work site in the middle of the motorway leapfrogs further south.
The NZ Transport Agency’s Wellington highway manager, Neil Walker, says the first phase of construction work – the section near the Ngauranga Interchange – has effectively finished and the project is now marching south.
Mr Walker says when the temporary concrete median barriers have been relocated to the next section of road, the road lanes at the merge/diverge of State Highways 1 and 2 will be reinstated to their original layout and the speed limit raised to 80km/h.
“We know this particular section of the work and the temporary layout has been disruptive and we’re very grateful to drivers who have taken extra care travelling through the site,” said Mr Walker.
The next section of replacing the central median barrier runs from the rail overbridge to the Aotea on-ramp. To make space for the mid-motorway work site, the road shoulder will be removed and the lanes will be narrowed and moved towards the edge of the road.
Mayor of Wellington City Celia Wade-Brown says Wellington is demonstrating leadership in developing the Smart Motorway, which will be a first for New Zealand.
“The Transport Agency has made good progress in finishing the first stage of the Ngauranga–Aotea upgrade, which will reduce congestion, make journey times more reliable, and improve safety on the busiest section of road in the Wellington region,” she says.
Mr Walker says, “During the day, the speed limit through the new work site will be set at 70km/h. The lowered speed limit is designed to protect the safety of road workers entering and exiting the site. It’s also important for protecting road users by giving drivers more time to react if something goes wrong. The speed limit is likely to be lowered further during the night when there’s more activity on the site,” said Mr Walker.
“Not everyone has been observing the speed restrictions, and we ask those people to think of the safety of others, and drop their speeds, even if others appear to be speeding.”
Replacing the central median barrier is on target to be completed by March 2016.
Also getting underway soon are the improvements to the State Highway 2 off-ramp at Ngauranga. Vehicle stacking space will be increased by widening the road and lengthening the middle lane. This will help the off-ramp flow more smoothly. The first part of the upgrade includes diverting the walking and cycling path in the area for approximately six weeks as drainage pipes are replaced.
Lighting on the motorway is set to be upgraded over the next couple of months with the installation of 195 LED lights, which emit a more natural white glow, compared to the yellow sodium lights that are currently in place. “We’re replacing the sodium lights between Aotea and Ngauranga with more environmentally friendly LEDs. These will give off a whiter light than what we currently have, and this will feel more natural to drivers.” said Mr Walker.
Another set of three overnight motorway closures between Thorndon and Ngauranga is tentatively planned for November (dates still to be confirmed). During the closures, four new cross-motorway gantries will be installed, a redundant one will be removed and a new (northbound) electronic message sign will be added to the existing gantry near Hobson Street.
All this work is helping bring Wellington’s smart motorway closer to completion.