Whangarei commuters are getting increasingly frustrated at the traffic snarl-up caused by roadworks on Riverside Drive, leaving some with an extra 45-minute wait to get to work in and school buses getting kids to school 30 minutes late.
Whangarei District Council started work on a roundabout and associated roadworks to take traffic on to the new $29 million bridge across Whangarei Harbour started in the middle of last year, with the work causing delays on some occasions.
But the delays have been getting worse, and the traffic tailbacks longer, in recent weeks with yesterday seemingly the worst yet, with traffic backing up down to Grahamtown Rd, along Whangarei Heads Rd, about 5.5km from the Riverside Drive roundabout about 8.40am. The situation seems to have been exacerbated by the return to school this week with the extra traffic associated with that, including school buses.
The Advocate went for a drive against the flow yesterday morning to see how far the tailback went and talk to commuters sitting in their vehicles.
At 8.41am a long line of vehicles extended from the roundabout and disappeared around the top of Onerahi Hill. At 8.45am the line extended past Onerahi shops and at 8.48am long lines were extending down Whangarei Heads Rd and along Church St past the Heads Rd/Church St roundabout.
Wendy Campbell wrote on the Northern Advocate Facebook page her children got to school more than a half an hour late on the bus because of the traffic and they were then getting flak from teachers because they'd been late been every day this week.
Whangarei District Council Group Manager Infrastructure and Services Simon Weston, said the Riverside Drive roundabout should be sealed next Friday, weather permitting. This should allow vehicles to go through it more quickly.
Mr Weston said the single-lane roundabout was big enough to handle traffic flows for the next 10 years or more, according to traffic flow studies carried out when it was designed. Council has also made room for it to be widened in future if needed.
What motorists said
Parua Bay commuter Lee Wilkinson, from Advancedesign Architecture, said his normal 20-minute drive to work had taken up to 65 minutes this week. He joined the traffic line at Grahamtown Rd, on Whangarei Heads Rd.
He'd worked out that since the traffic snarl-ups started he had spent about 66 hours sitting in traffic waiting. "Which is a week and half's working time," he added.
Mr Wilkinson said it was hard to remain calm when stuck in a traffic jam for so long and he also queried if the new roundabout would ease the jams, given that there would be only one lane for traffic going to the bridge and into town.
"I would have thought there should have been a free turn lane before the roundabout taking traffic to the bridge."
Mum Petra Roosendaal, from Waikaraka, works from home, but has to take her children to school and swimming practice in the mornings and thought it "sensational" to have such a long traffic jam in Whangarei. She said it was something she expected in a big city, not Onerahi while on the way to drop the kids off.
The normal five-minute journey to take the kids to school took 12 to 15 minutes more some days and it was hard to estimate exactly how long extra it would take as it varied each day.
"It surprises me that it can take that much longer. I know we have to suffer a bit sometimes for improvements but it is frustrating."