No quick fix for traffic congestion
Relief may be a long time coming for motorists who say the new $630 million Kapiti expressway has actually made their commute into Wellington worse
The New Zealand Transport Agency says it is considering lengthening the merge area on State Highway 1 at Mackays Crossing, where the new four-lane expressway connects to the old two-lane highway, to ease the bottleneck there.
But there may be little that can be done to solve the problem until the Transmission Gully motorway, under construction north of Wellington, is connected up to the Kapiti expressway in 2020.
Some Wellington commuters vented their frustration this week, saying the new expressway has actually doubled the amount of time it takes them to drive into Wellington during the morning rush.
One commuter said her 45 to 55 minute morning commute into Wellington’s CBD had increased to between 80 and 95 minutes since the expressway opened in February.
The issue was more traffic now converging on McKays Crossing all at once, and much earlier in the morning, because motorists aren’t being held up by things like traffic lights along the Kapiti Coast anymore.
Some commuters say this has caused a ‘‘knock on effect’’, with bottlenecks also occurring at other points along SH1.
The transport agency con- firmed on Thursday it was looking at ways to reduce congestion, but responsibility essentially lay with those behind the wheel.
Neil Walker, the agency’s Wellington highways manager, said one option was to extend the merge lane at the new chokepoint, which should encourage people to merge at the right time.
‘‘Increasing the length of the solid white line has worked well at the merge of state highways 1 and 2 at the bottom of Ngauranga Gorge, and encourages motorists to travel to the end of lanes before merging.’’
Responsibility was on drivers to use commonsense at merge points by minimising lane changes, driving to the speed limit and not braking suddenly, he said.
‘‘Large volumes of vehicles entering a section of the motorway can make other motorists brake or change lanes suddenly, creating a ripple effect that slows down those following behind.’’
Discussion about the new chokepoint was rife on a Kapiti Coast Facebook page this week.
The new traffic bottleneck was labelled a ‘‘nightmare’’ by one commuter.
There may be little NZTA can do in the short-term to alleviate the new rush-hour traffic bottleneck on SH1 at Mackays Crossing.