The highways north of Wellington are likely to be busy over Queen's Birthday Weekend, so the NZ Transport Agency is asking motorists to think about their travel plans before setting out to make sure they're safe and well prepared.
“There's going to be a lot of people driving north out of the capital on Friday and Saturday, then coming back on Sunday and Monday, so we're asking people to keep potential delays in mind before they set out, " says Wellington Operations Manager Mark Owen.
"It's important to stay one step ahead of what the journey may throw at you - that means leaving time up your sleeve for delays, and making sure you and your family are safe and well-prepared if the conditions take a turn for the worse."
"Drivers need to be extra cautious on the roads now - winter roads mean winter driving, and people may need to adjust their habits. There's likely to be more wet weather and a greater chance of roads that are slippery from rain or ice. That means travelling at a safe speed - which is often less than the maximum legal speed - and taking extra care on corners and when following."
Mr Owen says the busiest times to travel north from Wellington (based on previous traffic patterns) are between 1pm and 7pm on Friday, and between 10am and 1pm on Saturday. The busiest times to return to Wellington are late afternoon and early evening on Sunday and Monday.
During peak travel times, NZTA will be closing the State Highway 1northbound passing lanes north of Te Horo, as well as the southbound passing lane, north of Otaki.
The NZTA will close the northbound passing lane from mid-morning on Friday 31 May and reopen it from mid to late afternoon Saturday 1 June, subject to traffic flows.
On Monday 4 June NZTA will close the SH southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, just prior to midday and will reopen later that evening when traffic returns to normal.
Wellington Operations Manager Mark Owen says the closure of the passing lanes, which is supported by the Police, is done for safety purposes and to improve traffic flows.
"Passing lanes only do the trick when traffic is flowing freely; in traffic jams, they tend to facilitate queue jumping. When traffic is heavy, it's not the car in front of you that's slowing you down - it's the whole traffic jam. When traffic is backed up, vehicles merging back into the traffic jam can upset the gradual traffic flow and even cause nose to tail crashes.
"That's the reason the passing lanes are closed during holiday peaks – it means vehicles get through more efficiently and it’s safer for everyone.
“The lanes will be appropriately signposted and fenced off with traffic cones, and 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 also be providing temporary traffic management measures, within the Otaki Township, to improve traffic flow, including local traffic diversions to minimise the merging of traffic at the roundabout. These are subject to traffic delays, and are expected to be operational by mid morning and removed by late evening, or when traffic flow levels have returned to normal.
The NZTA will stop all roadworks on highways from midday Friday 31 May until 9.00pm on Monday 3 June. This excludes any work needed to be done for emergency purposes and routine maintenance activities.
Mr Owen urged drivers to check their vehicles and tyres before setting out, and to 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 encourage drivers to take breaks to avoid driver fatigue.