Potential traffic chaos and gridlock awaits thousands of commuters when they return from holiday to Auckland's CBD tomorrow.

Auckland has been reduced to a post-Christmas maze of orange traffic cone and one-lane roads as 33 city centre streets are poised to be disrupted by road works.

Even before the surge of holidaymakers return to work, traffic in some areas of the CBD in recent days - including part of Victoria St - has been clogged by gridlock.

Auckland Transport (AT), which is overseeing all the projects, admits the scale of roadworks this holiday period is above average.

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Auckland's central business association, Heart of the City, said the works would ultimately be beneficial, but it would be keeping a close eye on the impact on its members.

AT's Mark Hannan said January is targeted every year to undertake a substantial bulk of the road upgrades and it is nothing dramatically out of the ordinary.

Tips for surviving traffic chaos as holidaymakers head home.

"We try to get as much done at this time of year because it's quiet and the weather is good. It's also people like Watercare, Healthy Waters, they're all working at the moment," Hannan said.

"A lot of the work is being done in this period up until Anniversary Weekend when Auckland is traditionally quiet.

"But it's the same every year. There is a lot this year but it happens every year. We find things don't get back to normal until Anniversary Weekend."

The NZ Herald tests out the time it takes to drive along Quay Street at 4.45 PM on a Friday evening.

One of the most prominent projects disrupting the main east to west city centre route, Victoria St, is a cycleway leading from Ponsonby through to Nelson St in the city centre.

Since Christmas, that four-lane arterial route has been down to one lane each way, and on AT's website the project is set for a mid-2020 completion date.

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Aside from other existing disruptions such as the City Rail Link work along Albert St and surrounding blocks, a water project in the central city will be disrupting traffic in Beaumont St, Madden St, Pakenham St West over January and February.

And AT has 146 roadworks projects under way or planned across the entire Auckland region.

Of these, 92 are scheduled to be completed by the end of February.

Nelson St reduced to one lane due to road works that are causing major congestion. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Nelson St reduced to one lane due to road works that are causing major congestion. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Automobile Association infrastructure adviser Barney Irvine said AT planning was paramount with all the existing pressure on the city centre at the moment from CRL works and the convention centre fire lane closures on Nelson St.

"AT's right that traffic will stay pretty calm through until Anniversary Weekend, even though it will build up over the month, so it makes sense to do as much as possible now," Irvine said

"That said, the madness will resume after that, so we wouldn't want to see too much work scheduled after Anniversary Weekend, and any delays could be really harmful.

"It's really important that our decision-makers don't lose sight of just how important it is to maintain vehicle access to the CBD."

Nelson St has been hit hard by construction and lane closures from the SkyCity Convention Centre. Photo / Jason Oxenham
Nelson St has been hit hard by construction and lane closures from the SkyCity Convention Centre. Photo / Jason Oxenham

Heart of the City Auckland chief executive Viv Beck said the cityscape improvements from the works would eventually be "transformational" but they keep a close eye on local businesses' short-term interests.

"The big thing for businesses is they need access for servicing and delivery and they need their customers and employees to have access," Beck said.

"We keep a pretty close watch because the day-to-day management needs to be as good as it possibly can be, and if things aren't we'll certainly be saying something."

Auckland Council's finance committee chairwoman Desley Simpson said the roadworks scheduling was basically prioritising Aucklanders over tourists.

"It must be horrific for anybody who has to get into town but if Aucklanders have a break, now is the time that they have it," Simpson said.

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"So if there was one light at the end of the tunnel it would be this is happening when there is the potential to have the least disruption.

"No it's not a good look for cruise passengers or international visitors, but actually, for Aucklanders, this is the time you want the worst done."

Meanwhile, Aucklanders returning to the City of Sails yesterday faced long delays well before reaching the motorway network, with stretches of SH2, from Mangatawhiri, gridlocked.

Then further disruptions were caused by a scrub fire off Lambie Drive near Manukau, South Auckland, which temporarily closed parts of State Highway 20.