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Improvements To Clogged Motorway Put In The Fast Lane

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

By Kevin Norquay of NZPA

Wellington, Jan 26 NZPA - Improvements to the new toll road north of Auckland have been shot into the fast lane by miffed Prime Minister John Key, after traffic jams clogged it at the weekend.

Thousands of motorists who tried the $385 million road from Orewa to Puhoi had to grind along at near standstill for all but the first 400m of the 7.5km route.

It was not good enough, Mr Key told reporters at his post cabinet briefing today.

Transport Minister Stephen Joyce had been told to sort the problem out.

Traffic jams appeared to have been caused at the northern end of the motorway when it merged back into the single lane road to Warkworth.

That was "highly predictable", Mr Key said.

He accepted the Transport Authority position that no road would ever suffice on days of extreme traffic.

"But it's blindingly obvious if you want to take three lanes into one you are going to have a problem, and that's exactly what happened yesterday.

"Until we see an extension of two lanes or potentially three through to Warkworth, and ultimately Wellsford, we are going to have a lot of problems.

The Government was committed to extension, and Mr Joyce had been told to get on with it as soon as possible.

"We need these roads to work, and when you've got three lanes going into one, you just move the traffic jam slightly further on.

"Given the massive capital investment that makes no sense, but it was highly predictable and it needs to be resolved, it's highly unsatisfactory as far as I'm concerned."

The Northern Gateway Toll Road near Orewa, north of Auckland, to Puhoi is free until tomorrow, when it will cost $2 for cars or $4 for heavy vehicles over 3.5 tonnes.

Motorists keen to travel the road for the first time, and people heading out of Auckland for the anniversary weekend, contributed to major traffic jams.

New Zealand's first fully electronic toll road, it was built to take the pressure off the main access road from Auckland to Northland through Orewa.

The road north of Orewa is winding and narrow and not designed for the traffic volumes it has to cope with, becoming choked for kilometres at peak traffic times.

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