No quick fix for traffic congestion caused by new Kapiti expressway, NZTA says video

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Take a time-lapse trip up the newly open Kapiti Expressway.

Relief may be a long time coming for motorists who say the new $630 million Kapiti expressway has actually made their commute into Wellington worse.

The New Zealand Transport Agency says it is considering lengthening the merge area on State Highway 1 at Mackays Crossing, where the new four-lane expressway connects to the old two-lane highway, to ease the bottleneck there.

But there may be little that can be done to solve the problem until the Transmission Gully motorway, under construction north of Wellington, is connected up to the Kapiti expressway in 2020.

There may be little NZTA can do in the short-term to alleviate the new rush hour traffic bottleneck on SH1 at Mackays ...
RANDALL WALKER/FAIRFAX NZ

There may be little NZTA can do in the short-term to alleviate the new rush hour traffic bottleneck on SH1 at Mackays Crossing, north of Wellington, which has been created by the Kapiti expressway (FILE PHOTO).

Some Wellington commuters vented their frustration this week, saying the new expressway has actually doubled the amount of time it takes them to drive into Wellington during the morning rush.

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One commuter told Stuff her 45 to 55 minute morning commute into Wellington's CBD had increased to between 80 and 95 minutes since the expressway opened in February.

The issue was more traffic now converging on McKays Crossing all at once, and much earlier in the morning, because motorists aren't being held up by things like traffic lights along the Kapiti Coast anymore.

Some commuters say this has caused a "knock on effect", with bottlenecks also occurring at other points along SH1.

The transport agency confirmed on Thursday it was looking at ways to reduce congestion.

KEVIN STENT/FAIRFAX NZ

Stuff takes an aerial trip along the Kapiti Coast's new expressway.

Neil Walker, the agency's Wellington highways manager, said one option was to extend the merge lane at the new chokepoint, which should encourage people to merge at the right time.

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"Increasing the length of the solid white line has worked well at the merge of state highways 1 and 2 at the bottom of Ngauranga Gorge, and encourages motorists to travel to the end of lanes before merging."

"Large volumes of vehicles entering a section of the motorway can make other motorists brake or change lanes suddenly, creating a ripple effect that slows down those following behind."

CAMERON BURNELL/STUFF.CO.NZ

Reporter Joel Maxwell takes a Wednesday morning commute through the Kapiti Coast on the old State Highway 1 in mid-February.

Discussion about the new chokepoint was rife on a Kapiti Coast Facebook page this week.

The new traffic bottleneck was labelled a "nightmare" by one commuter, while another said it had added at least half an hour to their morning journey.

Some said bottlenecks that used to begin at Tawa were now occurring as far north as Porirua.

ROBERT KITCHIN/FAIRFAX NZ

Maxwell drives from Peka Peka to Poplar Ave on the new expressway, at the same time on a Wednesday morning.

But not everyone was sympathetic. One person said motorists simply needed to "suck it up" until Transmission Gully was built, and that the commute was nowhere near as bad as travelling further north through Paraparaumu and Otaki. 

 

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 - Stuff

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