Whangaparaoa traffic nightmare nearly at an end

By Mathew Dearnaley

Council workers will be on standby at traffic lights on Whangaparaoa Peninsula this morning to ensure smooth vehicle flows after a roadworks nightmare.

Rodney District Mayor John Law said he had been assured the sealing of a crucial 1.8km widened section of Whangaparaoa Rd would be complete by first light, after road-marking vehicles moved in last night.

Unless overnight rain halted the work, he said, traffic would have two marked lanes in each direction.

But Mr Law said his council would have staff posted at lights to manually over-ride automatic controls if necessary, to regulate drivers who have tried every trick in the book in recent months to "rat-run" around the $13 million project.

Motorists complained of taking up to four hours to get off the peninsula and reach Orewa on the worst day of the crisis last week, before the first seal was laid, and the local high school has delayed classes for senior students until 10am.

Some Whangaparaoa residents became so frustrated and stressed by delays that they stayed in motels in Orewa for several days last week rather than face the struggle home, and the council-owned beachfront holiday camp offered 50 per cent accommodation discounts.

The delays have fuelled interest in a public meeting being organised at Stanmore Bay for next Sunday by former district councillor and long-time Whangaparaoa resident Janet Fitzgerald to push for a $200 million toll road to the peninsula across the Weiti River. Yesterday, with helpers, she put up a large sign on Whangaparaoa Rd warning motorists that the widening project would offer only short-term relief "and if we don't build Penlink [the toll road] it's only going to get worse".

Ms Fitzgerald, who works for the local Returned Services Association and also does unpaid welfare work for it, said it took her an hour and 45 minutes to reach its premises in Vipond Rd last Tuesday from her home at Little Manly - normally a 10-minute trip. It took another 50 minutes, until just before 11am, to get an RSA member to North Shore City for a medical appointment - an ordeal that prompted the association to cancel welfare errands for the rest of last week.

Ms Fitzgerald has seen Whangaparaoa grow in 33 years from a rural locality where house lights were few and far between, to a community of about 28,000 people reliant on just one land link to the outside world.

"People say we have to find a way to build Penlink. They are prepared to pay tolls," she said.

Mr Law said Transit New Zealand chief executive Rick van Barneveld had been shown video last week of the jams along Whangaparaoa Rd, and he promised that his agency would join the district council in a working party to assess the peninsula's transport needs.

The mayor said the Government had ruled out a toll link as a local road, but he was pressing Transit to build it as a state highway.

"We can't have a peninsula almost the size of North Shore with just one road."

© Copyright 2014, APN New Zealand Limited

Assembled by: (static) on red akl_a5 at 23 Jul 2014 12:49:58 Processing Time: 772ms