Traffic finally flows on to $630m Kapiti Expressway as road quietly opens video

MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

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

The new route through the Kapiti Coast is getting glowing reviews from drivers within hours of opening.

The $630 million first section of the Kapiti expressway, north of Wellington, was opened to traffic just after 4am on Friday morning.

The opening of the road between Mackays Crossing and Peka Peka on the Kapiti Coast marked the completion of a project that started in late 2013.

Traffic flows for the first time on the opening day of the Kapiti expressway.
MAARTEN HOLL/FAIRFAX NZ

Traffic flows for the first time on the opening day of the Kapiti expressway.

Motorists were quick off the mark to give it a test-drive on Friday morning - appearing already to reduce the traffic load elsewhere.

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Usually filled with traffic heading north on Friday afternoon, the old State Highway 1 was almost empty. 

Next stop Paraparaumu on the Kapiti expressway.
Joel Maxwell

Next stop Paraparaumu on the Kapiti expressway.

Kapiti resident Maree Gately drove the expressway on its opening day and was pleased at how quickly it got her from A to B.

"It's money well spent – it took about four mins to get from Waikanae Beach to Paraparaumu off-ramp – it takes more than that to get from Waikanae beach to Waikanae village. Otaihanga roundabout is a nightmare, so pleased we can avoid this bottle-neck. Looking forward to seeing how it copes with Friday traffic. So pleased it is finally open."

Approaching the Kapiti Rd interchange on the first section of the Kapiti expressway.
JOEL MAXWELL/FAIRFAX NZ

Approaching the Kapiti Rd interchange on the first section of the Kapiti expressway.

Avalon, Lower Hutt resident Aaron McLean also had a bouquet for the expressway- although he had heard talk it could cause a bottleneck at Otaki, and expected Friday evening's rush-hour traffic would reveal whether that could be the case.

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"I drove on this first time this morning to Levin - I travel here a few times a week! And it was a breeze. Keep these projects coming," McLean wrote.

Ray Amos joined the expressway at Te Roto Dr, headed north to Peka Peka, before travelling south to Mackays Crossing. 

Heading south on the newly opened first section of the Kapiti expressway, near Peka Peka.
Joel Maxwell

Heading south on the newly opened first section of the Kapiti expressway, near Peka Peka.

"It gave you a whole new perspective of the Kapiti Coast. On a beautiful day like this, it's amazing.

'When you look at both sides, it's just amazing. The sheer size of it ... as you looked over you could see where the existing State Highway 1 is ... and you can foresee there'll be no holdups now, when everyone gets used to it.

"To me it was awesome. It's been a long time coming but now it's here, it's taken things to a whole new level." 

A panel of art work on the side of the Kapiti expressway, near Waikanae Beach.
Joel Maxwell

A panel of art work on the side of the Kapiti expressway, near Waikanae Beach.

He said traffic flowed well, with cars "hoofing it to the limit". 

Cat Young said she took the road to visit family in Otaki. 

"It was lovely ... we ended up in Peka Peka very fast and coming back was a breeze. 

The Mackays to Peka Peka section of the Kapiti expressway, from Poplar Ave, with a pedestrian overbridge.
MARK COOTE/SUPPLIED

The Mackays to Peka Peka section of the Kapiti expressway, from Poplar Ave, with a pedestrian overbridge.

"It was really nicely laid out. It was a really smooth drive, and I really liked the planting and the waterways." 

She said it was similar to driving on some Australian motorways. 

The project was dogged by controversy as residents were forced to make way for the four-lane road, while others were unexpectedly left living near a major thoroughfare.

It runs for 18 kilometres through central Kapiti, and includes a second bridge over the Waikanae River.

"It's obviously very early days but this morning's numbers indicate that there's a 50 to 60 per cent reduction in volume on the old route," NZTA State Highways Manager Neil Walker said.

"People starting using it as soon as the cones were off. Truck drivers made up a good proportion of the first vehicles, but it was also popular during the peak this morning. Everyone seems positive about their new options for travelling through the area."

On Friday morning, NZTA tweeted that it was open, and advised people to take care and follow the signage as they got used to the new road.

Motorists gave their reviews on the NZTA's Facebook page – many saying they had made a faster trip between towns, and giving the new route the thumbs up. Others were concerned about the new traffic noise.

The NZTA encouraged drivers to familiarise themselves with the new entries and exits to the expressway .

"We're thrilled that the expressway is now open and everyone can enjoy the benefits of safer and easier journeys in Kapiti. We know that people are excited to see the expressway open and in use, and we're urging everyone to be considerate and courteous as we all get used to moving around the district in different ways," Walker said.

Work was continuing around the Poplar Ave Interchange at the south end of the expressway over coming months, as well as the Peka Peka Interchange at the north end of the expressway, and some other roads in the area.

Additional roundabouts were still being built, and road surfacing and barrier installation needed to be completed.

"While this work continues, traffic management, lane closures and speed restrictions will occasionally be in place," Walker said. "We're thankful that people have been patient and understanding with the works to date, and we're asking people to bear with us a little longer as we finish off these remaining works."

Kapiti deputy mayor Janet Holborow said the region had a much-needed second north-south connection. 

"For Kapiti residents that regularly commute to and from Wellington the shorter and more reliable journey is a welcome addition to the Kapiti Coast, but for others who live in close proximity to the expressway, coming to terms with the noise and environmental impacts ... will take some time. 

"We acknowledge that it will take some time for people to get used to the expressway and changes to traffic patterns and volumes on our local roads, but on the flip side our community has gained a valuable roading asset that will make for safer and more reliable journeys and deliver significant economic benefit."

The expressway would now become State Highway 1 while the old route would eventually become local roads. Both new and old routes would give passage through the district.

It will form the central section of three projects: the $850m Transmission Gully route in the south, and a $330m section from Peka Peka to north of Otaki being the others.

 

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