We're halfway into a week of traffic chaos in Auckland. More chaos than usual that is.
Support from around the country for lane closures on the Auckland Harbour Bridge has been overwhelming, with steel for the "temporary" solution coming from Taranaki and a chorus of voices saying they are sick of hearing about the Super City's traffic problems.
Me too, friends, me too.
Unfortunately, they're here to stay. For those of us in glorious Auckland, it provides an important reminder that we live in a place where problems with motorway infrastructure irritate not just us, but the rest of New Zealand.
I was lucky enough to be among the hundreds of motorists crossing the bridge just after Friday morning's winded truck incident. As we crawled towards the North Shore and caught a glimpse of the toppled vehicle, my co-pilot for the day let out a stream of expletives. For we both knew that a crossing in one direction inevitably meant a return trip was needed. For us, it was later that afternoon. I'd already complained that the current meeting time meant we'd be battling rush-hour traffic on the way home. The bridge incident, as has been shown in the past five days, put a completely different spin on that.
The Transport Agency's website sums up the precarious nature of things nicely:
"Any delays to traffic on the bridge affect both the southern and northern state highway one motorways, so sophisticated planning and management helps keep motorists and freight moving 24 hours a day, seven days a week."
That afternoon's sophisticated planning, via Google maps, indicated we should take the "western ring route". A phrase we've become all too familiar with in the past few days, alongside "work from home", "catch the ferry, bus" and "spread out your journey". By the way, those last three sound great, but they really should be couched alongside other sentiments like "this is not practical for heaps of people".
For us, the roundabout way back was okay until we got closer to the city. We were chasing the Newton Road off-ramp. The cars backed up around it were (unsurprisingly) waiting to head north across the Harbour Bridge. Like every bad driving cliche, my co-pilot began advice on the jam with "depending on how confident you are". That was then followed by: "Keep driving in the empty lane and indicate to get across just before the off-ramp, or sneak into the safety lane and drive down that".
"Just depends how confident your driving is though."
I'd like to say I didn't take the bait and waited patiently. Instead, I accepted the challenge enthusiastically. Notably, a number of other "confident" motorists also rose to the occasion. Anything to avoid adding to traffic, right?
Since then, it's become clear the bridge will not be back at full capacity for a while. Like my creative driving tactics, we all seem to be dealing with it in our own way. The neighbourhood reaction to Monday's closure of the Curran St motorway on-ramp in Herne Bay was particularly delightful.
"It's been an interesting night," a resident told RNZ. "I came out for an evening walk, and instead find myself being a traffic warden - something I never thought I would do.
"It appears the only way to get this moving is for us locals to take matters into our own hands. We've been holding up signs, walking up and down the street and redirecting the traffic ourselves."
The journey of the "steel" central to a temporary fix has also taken on a special persona.
"That new piece of steel is now in Auckland," we heard from the Transport Agency on Monday. "Came up from Taranaki. We have it in the manufacturing plant, and it is being manufactured right now . . . At the same time, we're still undertaking a third round of peer reviews to make sure that our calculations are correct. Provided they come out correct, which we're hopeful they will, we are planning to start the installation of that steel from Tuesday night."
All go, it seems. Meanwhile, Aucklanders, and anyone driving through Auckland, will likely have to exercise extra patience on the road, especially if you plan to cross the harbour bridge. For those outside the city, yes, it's likely you'll continue to hear about our traffic woes. You'll also probably hear how urgent it is that work on another travel path between central Auckland and the North Shore begins - that's a perennial conversation we seem to like to have.
And for those in Taranaki, I'm throwing my support your way for this weekend's Ranfurly Shield challenge. For I shudder to think where we'd be without you and that vital piece of steel. Go Bulls.