Plan holiday route, drivers told

By Mathew Dearnaley

Photo / Thinkstock.
Photo / Thinkstock.

Holidaymakers joining the Christmas exodus from Auckland are being encouraged to check road and traffic conditions before leaving home, to improve chances of safe and relatively hassle-free trips.

Both the Transport Agency and the Automobile Association are offering newly enhanced roading information that can be checked online from home or through on-board vehicle navigation systems.

These include travel-time estimates for Auckland motorways through the agency's website, and traffic flow and congestion information for state highways through the AA.

The agency is also suggesting motorists heading north avoid long queues at toll booths for the Orewa-Puhoi motorway extension by paying either online or by phone before or up to five days after travelling.

Regional director Stephen Town expects 50 per cent more traffic than usual on State Highway 1 north from Auckland during the Christmas-New Year break, when the busiest section - between Puhoi and Warkworth - will carry up to 13,500 northbound vehicles a day.

His organisation has temporarily opened a second lane on a new bridge under construction over Punganui Stream on State Highway 16 north of Helensville, for drivers trying to avoid congestion on SH1.

Motorists heading for the Coromandel Peninsula should watch for an electronic message board at the intersection of State Highways 2 and 25, which will light up when delays crossing one-lane Kopu Bridge exceed 45 minutes.

Waikato state highways manager Kaye Clark says when that happens it will be quicker for traffic to head towards Paeroa before looping back to Thames, a trip which normally takes 30 minutes longer at off-peak times.

Queues to cross Kopu Bridge, which will become redundant when a new two-lane structure opens in 2012, can cause delays of up to two hours.

Ms Clark said she especially recommended the alternative route for stock trucks and people travelling with children or pets.

Motorists driving through Auckland from Boxing Day should expect delays on the harbour bridge, on which both southbound clip-on lanes will the closed for resurfacing until January 5, as will the Shelly Bay Rd off-ramp to Ponsonby.

One southbound lane from the bridge to Fanshawe St will also be closed for the same period, as will the Cook St off-ramp and Union St, as part of the $406 million Victoria Park motorway tunnel project.

The police are vowing to be out in force throughout the holiday period, which starts at 4pm today, saying they will target slow drivers who hold up traffic as well as those who are travelling faster than 5km/h over posted speed limits.

But national road policing manager Superintendent Paula Rose said yesterday that drivers should take responsibility for their own safety and that of their passengers, as her patrols "cannot be everywhere and we cannot plan for every eventuality".

Last year 13 people were killed on the roads and 67 seriously injured between December 24 and January 5.

BE PREPARED

* Check road and traffic conditions before leaving home.

* Avoid long queues at toll booths for the Orewa-Puhoi motorway extension by paying to use the road either before or up to five days after travel.

* Motorists heading for Coromandel Peninsula should watch for an electronic message board at the intersection of State Highways 2 and 25, which will light up when there are delays at Kopu Bridge.

* Expect delays on the harbour bridge if you are travelling through Auckland on Boxing Day due to resurfacing work.

- NZ Herald

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