Thousands of motorists experienced gridlock yesterday when they were caught out by heavy congestion on Wairere Dr and River Rd with queues stretching all the way to Chartwell causing delays of more than 45 minutes.
There have been regular hold-ups as the route undergoes a major upgrade, but frustrated motorists say yesterday's traffic jam was the worst yet as the road was cut down to one lane each way.
One Waikato Times reader was concerned about the dangers of the increasing strain on the Pukete Rd roundabout, which is used by about 27,000 vehicles each day.
"I have now seen the remains of a number of collisions including a rather nasty t-bone last Thursday."
However, council and police have not been alerted to any increase in crashes in the area.
Downer project manager Iain Fletcher declined to talk to the Times, but said project updates would be posted on the project's Facebook page. In an online statement, the company said it had started rehabilitation work on the existing Wairere Dr and advised motorists to avoid the makeshift Pukete roundabout.
"While that's happening and before the lights go live it will most likely be a headache for commuters travelling Wairere Dr during peak hours."
However, the company was working to reopen one of the existing lanes to westbound traffic last night, or before 7am today. A stop-go operation on Pukete Rd was also being considered.
The roadworks are part of the Hamilton ring-road project taking shape in two sections – the Wairere Dr four-laning and the ring-road extension from the Crosby Rd roundabout to Ruakura Rd.
The $105 million ring-road project will provide a crucial link between Hamilton's south and north sides and is expected to ease peak-time congestion.
Hamilton City Council city development manager Andrew Parsons said the project had entered a "crucial phase" as work started on the approaches to the intersection of Wairere Dr and Pukete Rd.
"For the first two days we had no issues, but today (yesterday) traffic congestion was a problem. We've fielded a number of calls from motorists who experienced delays. We've apologised for the inconvenience."
He said council was working with Downer to keep traffic flowing, but delays were expected to continue through next week.
"The size of the project makes this a challenge, with congestion an unavoidable consequence," Mr Parsons said. "We're reviewing our traffic management for this part of the project to try and improve traffic flows in this area for the next week."
Traffic lights at the Pukete intersection are expected to be switched on later this month. Until then, motorists are urged to give themselves more time when getting to work, or take alternative routes.
Mr Parsons warned that there would be similar disruptions in July when work began on the intersection of Wairere Dr and River Rd, and during the four-laning of Wairere Dr from River Rd to Resolution Dr.
The current delays were expected to continue until Thursday, weather permitting. The ring-road is due to be completed by the end of the year.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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