Take time, take care on Wellington roads over Easter weekend


With traffic expected to be heavy over the Easter 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 Easter 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 Easter when heading out on the highways, and to make the most of their journeys rather than rush them."

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 Thursday 5 April and reopen on Saturday 7 April, subject to traffic flows.

On Monday 9 April, 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.

"We appreciate that closing passing lanes to improve traffic flow may seem a little unusual, but it actually works, and with good reason.

"Passing lanes are only effective when traffic is flowing freely. 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 NZTA will be working with NZ Police to monitor congestion through Otaki and, if required, will instigate temporary traffic management measures to improve traffic flow."

The NZTA will stop all road works on the State Highway network over the Easter period. This excludes any work needed to be done for emergency purposes and routine maintenance activities. Resurfacing work around Paekakariki was expedited today to enable work to be put on hold over the Easter period.

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."