Roadworks rage to be given a short break

By Mathew Dearnaley

Motorists boiling in frustration around central Auckland roadworks will gain belated relief next week when two key projects are parked up to make way for Christmas shoppers and visiting cruise ships.

Auckland City has declared a moratorium from Saturday until Boxing Day on work in Quay St, where Vector has disrupted traffic since last month by digging two high-voltage power cable trenches, and on widening Symonds St for a $43 million busway between Britomart and Newmarket.

But the city council is warning motorists to expect more delays throughout next year, while Grafton Bridge remains closed for the busway project and work intensifies on railway upgrades requiring new bridges and stations around Newmarket.

These will include months of disruption for traffic between Khyber Pass Rd and Remuera Rd.

"A great deal of work is going on but all of it is necessary for meeting the needs of our growing city," says city council transport committee chairman Ken Baguley.

"While some may question the timing or co-ordination of the various works, they are all parts of an overall programme."

That has failed to cheer up Auckland Regional Council chairman Mike Lee, who is receiving calls from angry motorists who "seem to think it's my fault".

He was particularly dismayed by the Transport Agency's closure of all northbound motorway lanes through Onewa Rd in Northcote for 16 hours last weekend, causing 5km of traffic jams back to the Khyber Pass viaduct on Saturday night and lunchtime on Sunday.

The closure was to allow the removal of a disused bridge over the motorway, but agency regional operations manager Joseph Flanagan says traffic modelling is being reviewed "to learn what went wrong".

Calling that fiasco just one more of a series of frustrations for motorists, Mr Lee is demanding greater co-ordination of projects and says contractors should be required to toil around the clock to complete them faster.

"It is extremely frustrating that utility companies are allowed to dig up the roads at leisure, so there is no compulsion to have contractors working through the night or working continually," he said.

"It seems to be a rather quaint hangover from New Zealand's more rural provincial past that she'll be right and take our time and it doesn't matter. Well, it's having a huge cost and its unacceptable."

Auckland City Mayor John Banks acknowledged room for improvement but said: "I don't have to be told by the chairman of the ARC how I should undertake massive infrastructure works in the central business district of Auckland. I am certainly on top of these issues but do take quite a lot of consciousness from the public using the corridors and experiencing difficulties."

Those were the challenges posed by record levels of roading investment in Auckland, a foretaste of infrastructure spending of around $1 billion for each of the next 30 years.

"It could be argued that this work would have been better staggered, and that's something we need to take notice of," Mr Banks said.

But he said disruption had been reduced since he instructed officers about a fortnight ago to be more vigilant in using CCTV cameras to adjust signals along Quay St.

Vector spokeswoman Tammy Flavell said construction crews were working from 7am to 7pm six days a week, and all night during intersection crossings, but were constrained by safety and noise considerations.

Laying ducts for two cables in separate trenches from Quay St to Fanshawe St was due to continue until February, and could not have been delayed until after Christmas.

- NZ Herald

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