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Pedestrians to hit new motorway

JESSICA TASMAN-JONES
Last updated 05:00 03/08/2011

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It will be pedestrians and cyclists, not motorists, hitting the city's latest highway this weekend.

The public can walk or cycle the latest section of the Western Ring Route motorway network this Saturday before it opens to traffic on Sunday morning.

The new State Highway 18 runs between Westgate and the Upper Harbour Bridge providing an alternative route for drivers who normally commute along Hobsonville Rd in Auckland's north-west.

From midday eastbound lanes will be open for two hours to pedestrians before cyclists get to ride it between 2pm and 3pm.

Land has been set aside for a cycleway like the popular one that runs alongside the northwestern motorway, but the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) says there is no timeframe for that to be developed.

The NZTA expects up to 35,000 vehicles will use the motorway extension daily.

Traffic volumes on Hobsonville Rd - considered New Zealand's sixth worst road for fatalities and crashes - are expected to drop by 80 per cent when the route opens.

The new section of highway has cost $220 million and is set to be completed six months ahead of schedule following three years of construction.

A 3km four-lane extension of SH16 from Westgate to a new roundabout at Brigham Creek Rd is also being completed as part of the project.

NZTA warns the new sections of motorway will not remove all congestion for motorists travelling from north-western parts of the city.

Queues are expected to occur where traffic on the Hobsonville motorway merges with city-bound vehicles on the Northwestern Motorway - an area the NZTA admits is already busy in the morning.

In the afternoon, queues are expected where Constellation Dr intersects with the Northern Motorway.

There could also be queues at the Brigham Creek roundabout where traffic flow heading north-west narrows to one lane.

The new highway is one of the last sections of the Western Ring Route. The controversial Waterview Connection and the Great North Road interchange are the next major projects to be added to the route.

According to the NZTA, the 48km Western Ring Route will improve connections for freight and passengers between north, west and south Auckland and the airport.

It is expected to be operational in 2016 and fully completed by 2021.

The route is one of seven state highways the Government has deemed a road of national significance meaning its construction is regarded as essential to New Zealand's economic prosperity.

More details and a map of the pedestrian and cyclist route is available on the NZTA website.

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- Auckland Now

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