No quick fix for Kapiti route
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 (NZTA) says it is considering lengthening the merge area on State Highway 1 at MacKays Crossing – where the new, fourlane 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, currently under construction north of Wellington, is joined up to the Kapiti Expressway in 2020.
Some Wellington region commuters vented their frustration this week, saying the new expressway had actually doubled the amount of time it took them to drive into the capital during the morning traffic rush.
One commuter told The Dominion Post that her former 45 to 55-minute morning commute into Wellington’s central business district had increased to between 80 and 95 minutes since the expressway opened in February.
The issue was caused by more traffic now converging on MacKays Crossing all at once, and much earlier in the morning, because motorists weren’t being held up by issues such as traffic lights along the Kapiti Coast route anymore.
Some drivers say this has caused a ‘‘knock-on effect’’, with bottlenecks also occurring at other points along SH1.
The transport agency confirmed yesterday that it was looking at ways to reduce congestion but it said 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.’’
The onus was on drivers to use common sense at merge points by minimising their lane changes, driving to the speed limit and not braking suddenly, he added.
‘‘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 choke point was rife on a Kapiti Coast Facebook page this week.
The new traffic bottleneck was labelled a ‘‘nightmare’’ by one motorist, while another poster said it had added at least half an hour to their weekday morning journey.
Some commuters said bottlenecks that used to begin at Tawa were now occurring as far north as Porirua.
But not everyone was sympathetic. One person said motorists simply needed to ‘‘suck it up’’ until Transmission Gully was built, and that the commute was nowhere near as bad as travelling further north through Paraparaumu and Otaki.
"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." Neil Walker, the New Zealand Transport Agency's Wellington highways manager
Hawke’s Bay winegrower Xan Harding says vineyards harvesting cabernet sauvignon will be hoping the forecast rain is short-lived.