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Takin’ it easy on State Highway 2

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Travellers on State Highway 2 will have more time to enjoy the scenery this summer.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is aiming for a steady, smoother journey for drivers, by closing the passing lanes near Maramarua during the busiest Christmas and New Year holiday travel periods.

And those cruising on down SH2 through the Karangahake Gorge will have more time to soak up the stunning scenery. This week, the 600m section between Crown Hill Road and School Road will have its speed reduced temporarily from 80 km/h to 50km/h. This section of the highway includes the entrance to the Karangahake Reserve, which is the starting point for many of the popular walks in the historic gorge.

SH2 is the main highway connection between Auckland and the holiday hotspots of the Coromandel Peninsula, Waihī and Tauranga.

Waikato System Manager Cara Lauder says that it’s all about making the highways safer for everybody. “When the roads are super-busy, maintaining a steady flow helps prevent crashes from traffic merging at the end of passing lanes,” she says.

“Queues might be a little longer when the passing lanes are closed, but there will be minimal impact on your journey time. A slightly slower speed doesn’t make for a longer journey, overall, as traffic moves more steadily.

“And the slower speed through the gorge is to help keep people safe while driving, walking and cycling in this popular summer holiday spot.

“Slower speeds through the area will give all road users a bit more time to react to what’s around them.”

For those heading off on a Christmas break, the three eastbound passing lanes on SH2 near Mangatawhiri Road, Kopuku Road and Heaven Road will be closed from 8am to 8pm on Friday December 23, on Christmas Eve, and on Tuesday December 27 and Wednesday December 28.

Heading homewards, drivers will find the two westbound passing lanes near Heaven Rd and the Maramarua Golf Club closed from 8am to 8pm on Monday 2 January, Tuesday 3 January, Saturday 7 January and Sunday 8 January.

Our road crews will be on-site setting up for the passing lane closures from 5am each day of closure, and access to the passing lanes may be limited during this time. “We’re asking everyone to be patient, and drive with care,” says Ms Lauder. “Allow some extra time, and everyone will get to where they are going safely.”

Reopening of the passing lanes and ramps will depend on the traffic flow. If traffic remains heavy, the closures will remain in place for longer.

The reduced speed limit in the gorge will remain over the Christmas and New Year period, when holiday traffic is at its peak, until Waitangi weekend.

In early 2021, Waka Kotahi engaged with Karangahake and Waihī communities about speed limits through the gorge. The majority of the feedback was in favour of speed reductions, to keep everyone safer, with a petition signed supporting lower limits.

Speeds on SH2 from Mangatarata to the Waikato/Bay of Plenty regional boundary, including the Karangahake Gorge, are now being reviewed under the Interim State Highway Speed Management Plan. It’s a new approach to managing speeds, putting people and the many diverse ways we use our roads at the heart of how we plan the transport system,

With the summer holiday period approaching Waka Kotahi reminds everyone to plan ahead for safe, enjoyable summer trips using our holiday and real time journey planner tools. And of course, it’s more important than ever to drive to the conditions, allow extra time and take regular breaks to stay alert.

Historic Karangahake Gorge - photo credit Hauraki District Council

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