It's summer, and that means packing the car and getting stuck in holiday traffic on route to the bach and beach. To help plan the trip, transport reporter Bernard Orsman updates progress on some of our biggest motorway projects.
The weather Gods have been kind and the long-running roadworks to widen SH1 between Manukau and Papakura making motorists' life a misery came to an end before Christmas.
Delays along the busy stretch of motorway have become the norm since work started in October 2015, with changes to the project pushing out the completion date to the end of 2019.
In early November a fourth southbound lane opened between Manukau and Hill Rd and additional lanes between Takanini and Papakura were opened in stages in the run-up to Christmas.
The new lanes complete the addition of motorway capacity for the more than 95,000 vehicles using this strategic route every day.
The $317 million project has widened the motorway to four lanes southbound between the SH20/SH1 connection and the Hill Road off ramp and to three lanes from Hill St to the Papakura interchange.
Northbound, there are now three lanes from Papakura to Takanini. Along the way, 24 bridges have been built or rebuilt, there are 22 retaining walls and 4.5kms of shared user path and 4.4km of new noise walls.
NZ Transport Agency's senior manager project delivery Andrew Thackwray said: "We're very pleased to open these lanes before Christmas so that motorists can have a construction-free run out of the city to their holiday destinations."
Automobile Association spokesman Barney Irvine said the delays on the project have been inexcusable.
"This has been one of the most painful points on the Auckland network, and the delays prolonged the suffering for a huge number of Aucklanders and visitors. With all the pressure Auckland traffic is under, we can't afford to drop the ball on projects like this," he said.
'Is this a quake?': Homes 'cracking' in motorway work
Motorists face another year of delays on Southern Motorway
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The project has dragged on and included two major scope changes after construction began. It includes additional lanes in both directions, an upgraded Takanini interchange that has been changed from a diamond shape to a loop configuration and a 4.5km shared pedestrian and cycle path.
Hunua MP Andrew Bayly has called the project a "disaster" for the tens of thousands of people who travel up and down the Southern Motorway every day. The cost has risen from $268 million to $317m, he said.
To make matters worse, more than 20 homeowners are battling the NZ Transport Agency, saying vibrations from the roadworks have sent cracks snaking through their walls and ceilings.
One Takanini homeowner, Gayleen Smith, has an estimated $500,000 damage to her home with an engineering report commissioned by NZTA finding on "balance of probabilities" the house has been affected by the roadworks.
"Our damage continues on a daily basis. We had no heating over winter and now we've got no hot water. Financially it has ruined us. Every day we suffer vibration and sleepless nights. It's taking forever," said Smith, who has not heard boo from NZTA in months.
NZTA - which is in charge of the $317m project to add new lanes to the motorway - denies homes are being damaged.
Last year, NZTA announced it would take a further 12 months to complete the project and removed signs saying: "New lanes completed by the end of 2018".
Bombay resident Catherine Fuller, whose husband was stuck in traffic for one-and-a-half hours twice a day because of the roadworks, said: "The fact they think they can just slip another year of this under the carpet is infuriating and insulting."
Irvine said in the last year, congestion added 10 minutes more to the morning commute between Drury and Manukau from the previous year. The travel time increased from 25 minutes to 30 minutes. Off-peak the trip takes just nine minutes.
NZTA senior project manager Andrew Thackwray told the Herald the "Southern Corridor improvements project" is extremely complex and taking place within a highly constrained and narrow motorway.
Touch wood, another major project at the Northern Motorway to build the last link of Auckland's western ring route will not go the same way.
The new road will create an uninterrupted motorway-to-motorway connection along the Western Ring Route - providing a new route between Albany, West Auckland, Auckland Airport and Manukau to the south.
Upper Harbour Highway will be upgraded to a motorway, and the Northern Busway will be extended from Constellation Drive to the Albany park-and-ride station. It will be a single lane in each direction on the east side of SH1 and include a new bridge over SH1 at its northern end to connect to the Albany Bus Station.
Changes within the Constellation Bus Station include a new platform for northbound buses, extending an existing platform, a new station building and a new pedestrian overpass.
NZTA is also working with Auckland Transport to develop plans for a new busway station at Rosedale.
The SH1 motorway and bridge crossing at the Greville Rd interchange northbound and southbound will also be widened and the existing bridge over Rosedale Rd replaced, with new lanes in each direction.
The SH1 motorway crossing Constellation Drive will be widened with an extra lane each way. More than 7km of new walking and cycling paths will also be built.
In late February, a new shared bridge for cyclists and pedestrians at Albany over the Northern Motorway opened - complete with a secret feature.
The Tirohanga Whanui Bridge - which means "Panoramic View" - has a main water pipe installed directly underneath it to help cater for the growing needs of people in the area. The pipe would normally have run under the road.
Three sports facilities have been relocated and improved as part of the project - a new BMX facility, a new equestrian hub at Wainoni Park and a new $75m National Hockey Centre.
Construction on the $700m project started in April 2018 and is due to finish in mid-2022.
NZTA said at the moment, SH1 is the only main route between Auckland and Northland and faces significant congestion, particularly at peak times.
Pressure on the motorway system around Albany and North Harbour has grown substantially in recent years and is set to continue over the next 30 years - hence the alternative route for west and southbound traffic, the agency said.
The other motorway project in Auckland, the widening of SH16 from Lincoln Rd to Westgate, has just wrapped up. It will tie into the recently completed Lincoln Rd interchange.
It will create three traffic lanes in each direction and a dedicated bus shoulder lane in each direction.
Bridges over the motorway will be replaced at Royal Rd, Huruhuru Rd and Huruhuru creek (westbound only).
The popular northwestern cycleway will be extended alongside the motorway.
The $110m project, which is part of the Western Ring Route, began in mid-2016 and taken more than three years to complete.
On December 16, a third lane and a bus shoulder lane northbound between Westgate and Lincoln Rd was opened to traffic. A 3.5km shared path alongside the motorway, extending the northwestern cycleway from Lincoln Rd to Westgate, opened on December 19.
Last month, the Herald revealed NZTA is looking at building dedicated bus lanes on the shoulder the length of the motorway with station interchanges at Te Atatū and Westgate.
The bus lanes are expected to be a relatively quick and cheap fix, with early estimates putting the cost at $40m. The final cost and timelines will be known when the NZTA board considers the business case and funding.
Monday: Auckland and Waikato's $3.2b programme
Today: Auckland's misery
Wednesday: Waikato Expressway
Thursday : Heading North
Friday: Future projects