A project on the Southern Motorway was meant to be completed last year. And now a truck company owner says his driver was lucky to walk away from a crash on this notorious stretch of Auckland's State Highway One south. Belinda Feek reports
Mark Grey, owner of Mark Grey Carriers, says the roadworks widening State Highway 1 between Manukau and Papakura is a nightmare for not only trucks but all road users who are getting increasingly frustrated by the slow progress.
The project began in 2015 but had been hampered by delays; first the building of the new Pahurehure bridge and then a redesign of the Takanini interchange.
The $268 million Southern Corridor Improvement Project, which includes additional lanes in both directions and a 4.5km cycle lane, was meant to be completed last year.
However, NZ Transport Agency confirmed to the Herald the project would be finished "before Christmas".
One of Grey's trucks was involved in a crash near the Papakura off-ramp on Monday evening after it careered through a plastic barrier before landing on top of a steel barrier.
The driver managed to walk away without any serious injury but Grey had sent him off to the doctors for a check-up.
"He's fine, walked away from it, he's good as gold. They said he was trapped in the cab but he actually wasn't.
"He was doing the sensible thing of staying in the cab until it was safe to get out. We've sent him off to the doctor today to get a check."
When will the daily misery on Auckland's motorways end?
Grey was fed up with the continued delays of the widening project.
"It's just that bloody roadworks. Everybody out here has had a gutsful of those people working on that motorway there, they are dragging the chain, eh. "
He said one of his trucks was involved in a similar crash two years ago; the road surface dipped down just before the road barrier and pulled the wheels into it, sending it crashing into a barrier, ripping off the truck's front axle.
As for yesterday's crash, Grey said it appeared a similar event had occurred.
"It's really dangerous.
"It absolutely demolished the truck. A brand new truck, done 30,000km, and it was dedicated to my old man that passed on last year.
"Everyone is just so over this Takanini motorway crap, eh."
Grey said his children are in Auckland city but there was no way he would bother to try and visit them on a Sunday afternoon as the traffic was always backed up for kilometres.
He said the situation had got so bad he was aware of contractors working on the site getting abused by frustrated motorists.
"We're actually experiencing people yelling out the windows at workers now, eh. They've had a gutsful. Everyone has had a gutsful. But we've got a nice cycle lane."
He said he was nervous with the Government putting the brakes on multiple roading projects around the country.
His trucks, which left their depot in Drury, would often get to Hamilton before others which left at the same time arrived in Onehunga.
"It's going to go on and on and on and here we are in Drury and they're opening our land up for more subdivision and our roads can't cope now."
National Road Carriers chief executive David Aitken said the stretch of road was "a major issue" that was taking far too long to get finished.
Aitken said he had a meeting with a group of nine trucking operators and that stretch of road was brought up in conversation.
"That was one of the things they were complaining about, why is it taking so long?"
He agreed with Grey that the road was dangerous.
"They keep on moving the barriers and changing the line of the road so there's kinks and bends in it, there's different bits of tar seal on there. It's a major issue.
"The traffic jams start at 3am, 4am now. That's early. It's just getting earlier and earlier. And on a Sunday, you get to Drury and there's congestion because of those road works."
NZTA's senior manager project delivery Andrew Thackwray said the traffic management was "a significant priority and challenge for us".
"The project is highly constrained between neighbouring residential properties, a sensitive coastal marine environment and the requirement to maintain two 80km/h traffic lanes in each direction with a good road surface while construction is under way.
"Changes to the road layout allow us to create work zones within which to complete the works. Traffic management throughout site is compliant to NZTA temporary traffic management standards."
He declined to comment about road workers getting abused, but said he understood motorists' "frustration with the temporary lanes and speed limits".
"We are working to have the highly constrained project completed as quickly as possible.
"Works will be completed before Christmas and motorists will be able to enjoy all the benefits of the motorway improvement project."
Despite the delays and extra builds, the project has remained on budget at $268 million.
ON THE HOME STRAIGHT
What's left to complete?
• 1370m of stormwater drainage,
• 24,000t of pavement,
• 24,300t of asphalt and surfacing,
• 6200m of permanent concrete barriers,
• Road surface completion in November,
• Temporary traffic management ends and all lanes open by December.