Holiday travellers are getting Christmas priority from the NZ Transport Agency as most highway maintenance work in Auckland and Northland will be paused during the break to help ease congestion and keep traffic flowing.
The holiday shutdown will start on Wednesday (19 December) and continue until 7 January.
The NZTA’s acting State Highways Manager for Auckland and Northland, Steve Mutton, says roads and highways in both regions will be busy and everything possible will be done to help make sure people have smooth and safe journeys
“Maintenance is an essential part of our work to keep state highways in a safe and good condition, but it can involve lane closures, speed restrictions, diversions and restricted access on motorway on and off ramps. Unless there’s an emergency, we’ll hold back on that work for a couple of weeks and give holiday travellers Christmas priority.”
One critical part of the network not included in the shutdown is the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The two lanes of the northbound box girder (clip-on) will be closed from Boxing Day (26 December) for maintenance.
“We need to take advantage of the holiday break to re-surface sections of the bridge. Although we’ll still have six lanes open, Boxing Day marks the start of the Christmas sales and it’s the day when a lot of people leave Auckland so there’s a risk of some congestion heading north,” Mr Mutton says.
With schools closed for the summer, holiday traffic is already starting to build as people travel in and out of both regions. Mr Mutton says the NZTA will work with the Police during the break to keep highways safe, but adds that drivers should also take responsibility for keeping themselves and their families safe:
“The risk of a crash increases at this time of year because there’s more traffic and more congestion,” Mr Mutton says. “Driver distraction, speed, fatigue, alcohol, unsound vehicles – they are all avoidable killers.”
Mr Mutton says one of the busiest sections of state highway will be the Northern Gateway Toll Road, north of Auckland. Up to 22,000 trips daily are made on the toll road during the Christmas/New Year break – 8,000 more than an average workday. The manual payment kiosks located at either end of the road expect to process up to 1600 transactions daily, and queues are likely.
People can avoid delays by going on-line at www.tollroad.govt.nz(external link) to either open an account or pay for individual trips. People can also use the toll road’s call centre at 0800 40 40 20. The call centre will be closed on Christmas Day and at weekends, but will be open all other days including public holidays.
The NZTA reminds people that an administration fee applies for individual trips paid for at the kiosks (40c per transaction regardless of the number of trips bought) and at the call centre ($3.70 per transaction regardless of the number of trips bought). The $3.70 administration fee does not apply for accounts opened through the call centre. There is no fee at all for going on-line to pay for either trips or to open an account.
There are two free alternative routes to the toll roads: the Hibiscus Coast Highway between the Silverdale interchange on State Highway 1 and Puhoi, or SH16 between the Silverdale interchange and Wellsford.
The NZTA’s website, http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic/around-nz/holidays.html(external link) has more details and advice to help people plan a safe Christmas holiday.