Without money for a permanent solution the traffic congestion at the State Highway 1 and Hill Street intersection remains Warkworth’s most contentious issue.
Money for improving the state highway comes from central government’s NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) while Auckland Transport is responsible for all other Auckland roads.
The NZTA plans to improve traffic flows through the intersection by funding a new motorway bypass around Warkworth due for completion around 2022/23. The organisation has made some road widening improvements and traffic restrictions already at Hill Street.
Auckland Transport also has plans for even more Warkworth bypasses including a western collector road and the Matakana “link” road. Penlink bridge and the Kumeu SH 16 bypass are other examples of such roads intended to alleviate traffic congestion around growing townships. The problem is all of these northern Auckland Transport traffic projects are unfunded.
“With traffic already badly congesting the money issue needs to be solved now,” says Rodney Local Board member Mr Greg Sayers. “A paradigm shift in thinking is called for.”
“Ongoing piecemeal improvements and ‘territorial boundaries’ simply won’t cut it with the public,” he says.
Mr Sayers says the Hill Street example is typical of how traffic congestion stifles wider communities.
The problem with the Hill Street intersection is the proximity of so many local and arterial roads intersecting at a state highway. Add to that equation each road having different peak flows (school, commute, holiday, shopping and local events) predominantly wanting to turn right and that confusion alone generates traffic jam chaos.
Mr Sayers says some local residents would like a roundabout-based solution for Hill Street. According to Mr Sayers they believe the flow of traffic turning right would have an easier course, without long queues forming. Also, there could be better access in and out of all the connecting roads. Mr Sayers says in comparison with multi-million dollar bypasses, such a solution for Hill Street has a relatively low cost with nil to minimal land purchases required.
“In terms of design, NZTA could look at the cost-effective improvements that have worked elsewhere”, he says. “Locals constantly remind me of state highway roundabouts in other parts of the country with similar flow patterns.”
“First and foremost, however, is that this intersection is a gateway to Auckland. Warkworth shouldn’t be a frustrating obstacle to so many travellers. Plus, discontented locals have to endure this intersection several times a day and they want it dealt with decisively.”
Mr Sayers believes the bypasses will not satisfactorily solve Hill Street. He says people won’t tolerate sitting in queues at that intersection for the next 5-10 years knowing that the problem won’t go away while being told it’s because of budget constraints.
He is advocating for a new funding approach and is suggesting Auckland Transport form a joint-venture partnership with NZTA to get the northern regional transport projects of Hill Street, Penlink, the Matakana Link Road and SH 16 delivered with certainty.
“Fresh thinking whereby government and Council find a new way of working together to fund these critical transport projects is worth serious exploration,” says Sayers. “Even earmarking money from future subdivisions to equal a funding amount from NZTA should be looked at.”
“I am making it my priority to get these discussions underway.”
Sayers says the early feedback from the Prime Minister, NZTA and Auckland Transport is that they are all willing to discuss innovative ways of solving these transport issues.