After 19 months a new roundabout on State Highway One south of Whangārei will finally open to traffic from Monday.
Work on the roundabout, at the intersection of SH1 and SH15 at Loop Rd, started in March last year. It was due to be completed by December this year, but in December 2019 the plan was widened from a single-lane roundabout to a two-lane one, in anticipation of the highway from Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway being four-laned later.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said the Loop Rd roundabout will open for the first time to traffic on Monday morning.
A number of changes will be made overnight Sunday to transform the "T" intersection where SH15 joins SH1 into a single lane roundabout.
"This will be a big and very welcome change for motorists and a fantastic achievement for the project team. It's been a long wet winter and construction in a live traffic environment is always difficult. With the improvements project at Tarewa Rd just up SH1 also nearing completion, this is great progress for Northland motorists and truck operators," Waka Kotahi senior manager project delivery Andrew Thackwray said.
"The roundabout will just be a single lane as the completion of the full two-lane roundabout is still at least a year away. However, it will be a significant change for motorists that will improve traffic flow and peak time congestion through the area."
Traffic lanes on SH1 will shift back to their original north and southbound alignment, with a single lane through the new roundabout. This will allow space on the eastern side of the highway, where traffic has been using a temporary road, to construct the additional southbound lane on SH1 that will tie in to the two-lane roundabout.
Changes to the road layout will be made overnight on Sunday to minimise disruption to road users. SH1 will be reduced to a single lane with stop/go traffic management and a temporary speed limit of 30km/h.
"The new layout will be in place for Monday morning peak traffic and motorists can expect to enjoy a better traffic flow and improved journey times, " Thackwray said.
There will be a temporary speed limit through the roundabout of 30km/h for the first week while road users adjust to the new layout. The speed limit will then be raised to 50km/h.
"This is still a construction zone so we ask motorists to slow down, keep to
the temporary speed limits and watch out for our crews on the roadside. Safety is our priority and we want everyone to get home safely.
"We appreciate the patience and understanding of motorists, especially those who commute through our work site daily, as we work to significantly improve the safety, efficiency and resilience of this section of SH1."
The roundabout will increase to a two-lane roundabout once the additional southbound lane and new two-lane bridge over Otaika Stream have been constructed next year. Project completion is expected in summer 2021/22.
The roundabout is part of a wider project to upgrade SH1 and the Portland Rd intersection further south to improve safety and access for road users.
The intersections are on the inland freight route for logging trucks heading to and from Northport at Marsden Point and 19,000 vehicles use this section of SH1 every day.