Wheels in motion on NZ’s first ‘smart motorway’


The first stage of work is now underway to overhaul New Zealand’s busiest section of motorway south of the Bombay Hills to help relieve some of Wellington’s worst evening peak congestion problems on both State Highway 1 and city road networks.

The three kilometre section of highway between Ngauranga and Aotea Quay carries about 90,000 vehicle movements every day, and the NZ Transport Agency’s $50 million, 18 month upgrade will create New Zealand’s first ‘smart motorway’.

Wellington Highway Manager Rod James says the project combines two elements: replacing the shoulder with a new northbound lane, and introducing a smart, modern approach to traffic management.

The project is the next section of the Wellington Northern Corridor Road of National Significance to get underway.  It is designed to reduce congestion on this extremely busy section of highway and on surrounding roads like the Hutt Road, while making journey times more reliable and improving road safety.

A smart motorway is one that is actively monitored and managed by traffic operators through a network of sensors, cameras, and speed and lane control signs. Once the project is finished, lane control signs and speed limits will be actively controlled by the Wellington Traffic Operations Centre, a 24/7 facility jointly managed by the Transport Agency, Wellington City Council, Hutt City Council, and Greater Wellington. 

The additional northbound lane will be accommodated within the existing motorway footprint, and emergency stopping bays will be provided.

Initial work preparing the off-highway area for new gantries has already begun during off-peak times.

In January, the ‘on-road’ changes will get underway,  including installing new median safety barriers and sign gantries. While this work is underway, every effort will be made to keep disruption to a minimum.

“When the project ramps up, we’ll be doing everything  we can to keep traffic moving as smoothly as possible,” says Mr James. “Drivers will need to  follow the traffic signs to ensure everyone gets to their destination safely and as soon as possible. Given the scale of the work, there may be some delays, but the end result will lead to a much better evening journey out of the city, and we’re asking the public to bear with us while we make it happen.

“Converting this section of SH1 to a smart motorway will help us to make the best use out of our existing infrastructure. Once the project is finished, the motorway will enter a new phase that will bring it in line with similar urban motorways in the United States and Britain.  It will cease to be a static piece of infrastructure, but rather a dynamic, intelligent transport corridor that will use the latest technology to actively manage journeys to get the best traffic flow possible.”

Mr James says that freeing up congestion on this stretch of State Highway 1 will also benefit public transport users and cyclists.  

“Improving flows onto State Highway 1 at Aotea Quay will help to move traffic off Thorndon Quay and Hutt Road, freeing up this route for more reliable bus journeys out of Wellington, and safer journeys for cyclists.”

The project will also deliver economic benefits through freight and port activity.

“A more productive motorway means a more productive port. This will help to grow our economy by making the Capital more competitive as a commercial freight hub.”

This work is just one part of an extensive package underway through the transport corridor north of Wellington to improve north-south travel throughout the Wellington region for users of all forms of transport. This includes Transmission Gully and the Kapiti Expressway, the replacement of the metropolitan rail fleet with new Matangi trains, and a proposed new cycleway linking the Hutt Valley with Wellington City.

More information about the Ngauranga to Aotea Quay project can be found at  www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/ngauranga-to-aotea-quay(external link).


For more information please contact:

Anthony Frith
Media Manager - Central

T: 04 894 5251
M: 027 213 7617
E: anthony.frith@nzta.govt.nz