Motorists have been left with cracked and chipped windscreens after driving on Transmission Gully less than 24 hours after the motorway opened.
Chris Calvi-Freeman, a former Wellington City councillor, drove north on the new route this morning.
Traffic was heavy and fast moving, he said.
"On overtaking an empty logging truck I caught a shower of stones, one of which chipped my windscreen. A bit disappointing given that as a regular traveller between Wellington and Waikanae beach I had been looking forward to this new motorway for several years."
Paul Edlin said one of his staff members drove the new road today and ended up with a large crack in their windscreen, which would need replacing.
"Our driver was overtaking a truck that was in the slow lane going up the Wainui Saddle part of Transmission Gully and as they approached the truck they were showered with loose stones and one has caused a large windscreen crack."
A Transmission Gully Project spokesperson said there would always be a small amount of loose chip when vehicles are driving on a newly opened chipseal road.
"The levels of loose chip on Transmission Gully are well within the normal expected range, and we expect this to continuously improve with trafficking of the road."
Speed limits have temporarily been reduced to 70km/h in some sections and the road will be swept overnight.
Drivers have been advised to increase following distance to four seconds when loose chip is present. Anyone experiencing issues should contact 0800 TG INFO.
Before the road opened Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency advised temporary speed limits may have to be put in place due to two-thirds of the road having a chipseal surface.
The chipseal surface needs to settle and driving too fast may send loose chips flying, or driving too slow may lead to chips sticking to vehicles, the transport agency reported.
Meanwhile, "driver error" is to blame for a police car becoming stuck in deep gravel off the shoulder of Transmission Gully this morning.
The arrestor bed is designed to stop runaway vehicles and is made of deep loose gravel.
A police spokesperson confirmed to the Herald that the new safety feature of the road is "very effective".
The police car has since been removed but not all police vehicles that get into grief on the new stretch of motorway will be able to immediately radio for help. Yesterday, police said their radio network had two blackspots over a combined 1.2km of the new road.
Police are building a new radio site for all emergency services at Wainui Saddle to fill the gaps, but the new site won't be operational until next year.
A number of motorists have already been ticketed by police on the long-awaited new road.
It officially opened to traffic today, meaning people can finally drive on the new $1.25 billion route out of Wellington after lengthy delays.
Police confirmed to the Herald that "a small number" of tickets have been issued since the road opened just before 3am this morning.
Despite the tickets, a spokesperson for the police said they were "overall pleased" with how commuters have behaved on the motorway. They also urged people to be careful despite the excitement of the new road.
"Police want to remind people that this is a motorway and you cannot stop. We appreciate this is a new stretch of road and people will want to look around but we urge drivers to remain focused and drive distraction-free to ensure the safety of all road users."
Kāpiti Coast District Mayor K Gurunathan said it's a historic day for the region.
"It has been such a long time coming and will bring major changes to the Kāpiti Coast, most importantly providing the transport resilience we need to be properly connected to Wellington," he said this morning.
Gurunathan said the new road brings significant change to the whole roading network and it will take time to get used to.
"Let's take care out there and not all rush out at once. New interchanges, a brand new road through largely unseen terrain and such high interest could make for a pretty hectic few days."
It was a foggy morning in the capital as commuters got started on their journey on the new road - however this has now burnt off into a sunny, clear afternoon.
There was steady flow of traffic heading southbound on the motorway with drivers seeming in high spirits - some were tooting their horns as they drove past.
In comparison, the old State Highway 1 - now named SH59 was a "ghost road".
One commuter told the Herald the road was pitch black and almost empty as he commuted into Paekakariki this morning.
"Not much action this morning, usually it's pretty full-on both ways."
He said he was looking forward to trying the new road in the coming weekend and hopefully getting into the Hutt a little bit faster.
While there is much excitement about the road opening, Waka Kotahi transport services general manager Brett Gliddon has urged motorists to avoid the temptation of trying to be the first to enjoy it.
"We don't advertise a specific opening time for moving traffic on to any large new road, in order to avoid congestion and the potential for crashes with people queuing up to be first on the new road. We understand why people are excited – Transmission Gully is fantastic, but it will be here for the next 100 years so there is plenty of time to enjoy it."
An opening ceremony was held yesterday at the northern entrance to the road where Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern cut a ribbon to mark the occasion.
Ardern said it was no secret that a road connecting Wellington to the lower North Island through Transmission Gully has been talked about for many decades.
She said it was first mentioned in the Evening Post newspaper in 1919.
Admitting it was not without its challenges, Ardern said Transmission Gully is "a testament to what can be achieved in spite of a rough start and in spite of a one-in-100-year pandemic".
Guests at the ceremony and media got a sneak peek of the road yesterday and were allowed to drive on the four-lane motorway.
Ngāti Toa Rangatira chairman Callum Katene said Ngāti Toa also travelled the road yesterday performing karakia.
The iwi has given the road the name Te Ara Nui o Te Rangihaeata – meaning the great path of Te Rangihaeata.
About 25,000 vehicles are expected to use the motorway daily.
As rubber hits the road this morning, the transport agency has also reminded drivers that some disruption and congestion at entry and exit points could be expected.
"It could take a few months for journey times to settle, as people experiment with different routes and become familiar with the new motorway, particularly in the morning for people heading into Porirua and Wellington," Gliddon said.
"We're asking people to be patient as these new journey patterns settle."
Motorists have been advised there may be temporary speed limits in place when the road opens while the chipseal settles.
Driving too fast may send loose chips flying, or driving too slow may lead to chips sticking to vehicles.
Transmission Gully has been built through a public-private partnership (PPP), the Wellington Gateway Partnership (WGP), with CPB Contractors and HEB Construction subcontracted to carry out the design and construction.
The 27km motorway is opening two years later than originally expected.
The Government has blamed delays and cost blowouts on National's "botched" PPP.
But after a "huge amount of work" on the project over the summer, the transport agency has said it's now confident the road has reached a stage where it is safe for public use.
Its current cost of $1.25b will almost certainly balloon further when negotiations over the fallout from last year's Covid-19 Delta outbreak have concluded.