The opening of two additional lanes on the Auckland Harbour Bridge this morning will help relieve some motorway congestion for motorists heading home to the North Shore tonight.
However Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says the bridge is still operating at less capacity than usual and more people need to change their travel patterns to ease congestion by using public transport, travelling off peak or travelling via the Western Ring Route (SH16/SH18).
“In this temporary configuration, the bridge is still not fully operational, two lanes remain closed, and motorists should still expect queues and delays crossing the bridge at peak times,” says Waka Kotahi General Manager Transport Services Brett Gliddon.
Auckland Transport says there has been a big shift to buses and ferries since Monday where people have seen public transport as an attractive option to beat congestion. There are still plenty of seats available on regular services, especially on the Northern Express bus routes to and from the North Shore. The travel time by bus from Albany to the CBD this morning was just 25 minutes, and almost double that in private vehicle.
Ferry passengers increased 104% on last Tuesday and the busy Devonport service is returning to a half-hour off peak schedule.
Bus patronage on Tuesday compared to the previous week was up 5.4%, after an 8.2% increase on Monday. Auckland Transport says the trend of people commuting earlier and off-peak increased on Tuesday.
With the opening of the additional bridge lanes, the northbound bus priority lane that has been in place for the past two days at the Fanshawe Street motorway on-ramp has been relocated to the left of the on-ramp to help provide more reliable travel for people on buses. The Curran Street northbound motorway on-ramp has been re-opened to traffic.
For customers who need to travel by car, use the Western Ring Route via SH16 and SH18 as an alternative to SH1 and the bridge.
”Plan ahead, allow extra time and use the online journey planner apps to check which is the least congested and quickest route before leaving home.”
This morning queueing on the southbound side of the bridge was markedly shorter than previous mornings once the third lane on the bridge opened and the queue cleared once the peak period ended.
Overnight, Waka Kotahi successfully completed a complex repair to temporarily fix the strut that was damaged when it was hit by a truck in 127 kph wind gusts on Friday.
The lower half of the 22.7 metre strut has been replaced with a section of freshly fabricated steel.
The temporary fix is in place after extensive efforts by specialist bridge engineers and fabricators who have been assessing the damage, designing the new strut, calculating and planning the repair, and manufacturing the steel strut.
“We had perfect weather conditions on the Harbour Bridge overnight and so progress was much faster than we had hoped. There was very little wind, good temperatures and visibility which meant the team were able to get the new section installed and carry out the testing all in one night.”
A planned closure tonight of the southbound clip-on is no longer required.
Once the strut was in place, there was extensive examination, including real life testing with heavy vehicles, to ensure it is performing to the necessary design specifications and requirements. Once testing was completed, a southbound lane on the centre span was opened to traffic just after 7:00am and a northbound lane around 8:40am.
“While this is really good news, even with the temporary strut now in place the bridge is still in a more compromised state than usual and loads on the bridge will need to be managed carefully. This will remain until the permanent solution is in place and the bridge can support its full weight capacity again.”
No overweight vehicles are currently allowed on the Harbour Bridge and Waka Kotahi asks that heavy vehicles use the Western Ring Route as an alternative route until the permanent solution is installed.
Buses should continue to use the bridge clip-on lanes.
Waka Kotahi is now working on a permanent repair of the damage to eventually re-open all lanes on the Harbour Bridge, however this work will take some time and is still weeks away from installation.
Waka Kotahi would like to thank all staff, contractors and suppliers involved so far for their dedication to the recovery of the Auckland Harbour Bridge.
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