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Solving the “Warkworth Problem”

One of the amusing things about me and the Puhoi-Wellsford “holiday highway” is that my family actually owns a beach-house at Mangawhai Heads and our trips to and from that house would very much benefit from this highway being put through. In fact, I write this blog post from that house – as we’re up here for a few days at the moment. Heading up yesterday morning the traffic we encountered wasn’t a problem, although for those heading south the “Warkworth problem” was highlighted once again.

My general feeling is that the “need” for the Puhoi-Wellsford road as something to significantly ease congestion (not just during holiday periods, but obviously most particularly at those times) is getting mixed up with a more pressing issue – what to do about Warkworth and the effect it has as a giant bottleneck on State Highway 1. Over the past few years some work did occur on widening parts of the main road through Warkworth, although that somewhat stupidly stopped short of resolving the two big problems – a two lane bridge in the middle of Warkworth and the horrifically complex Hill Street intersection.

This thing:

I’m sure that most people who have travelled through Warkworth at some point will be familiar with this intersection and the stupidly complex situation that arises for people trying, for example, to get from Elizabeth Street to Sandspit Road, or from Matakana Road (further north off Sandspit Road) to the south. We’re left with one lane each way for through traffic on State Highway One and giant conflicting movements between traffic getting out of Sandspit Road and southbound SH1 traffic.

Further exacerbating the problem is the fact that there’s actually a heck of a lot of traffic trying to get from SH1 to and from Sandspit Road and Matakana Road – because there’s actually a lot of area and population those two roads serve, particularly during holidays periods. Sandspit Road serves Snells Beach, Algies Bay, Mahurangi East and (surprisingly enough) Sandspit. Matakana Road serves Matakana, Omaha, Tawharanui Peninsula, Leigh, Goat Island and many other places. Traffic volumes on State Highway 1 south of Warkworth are around 50% higher than north of Warkworth – indicating a lot of traffic is either bound for Warkworth or turns off on these roads out to the eastern beaches.

In effect, we have two Warkworth problems:

  1. We are funnelling a lot of vehicles through pretty much the middle (if not the town centre) of Warkworth. This both severs the town, and also generates congestion by mixing through traffic with local traffic.

  2. The complex intersection at Hill Street, and the conflict between traffic bound for eastern beaches with through traffic and with town centre linked traffic, causes mayhem. Not just at holiday times – but most severely then.

If we look at this issue, yes sure the Puhoi-Wellsford road would solve it – but is that the cheapest, quickest and most logical way to solve this congestion problem? I tend to think not. There have been a few options for western collectors roads in Warkworth over the past few years, but what I think is really needed is a proper bypass – at 100 kph road with perhaps a couple of giant roundabouts providing access to existing roads at the very southern and northern ends of town. Something like this:

The details of such a scheme obviously need further work. I’m not certain whether this is the perfect place to put the bypass (though I wouldn’t want it any closer to Warkworth, especially if the place is set to grow significantly), I’m not certain whether you may shift the connections further north or south (though once again I wouldn’t want them any closer to the town). I’m proposing that the new bypass directly pass over both Woodcocks Road and Falls Road – to not put too much pressure on those roads as links to Warkworth town centre and also to allow through traffic a pretty free run. Full interchanges could be done instead of roundabouts – the cost versus benefit analysis would need to be done on that matter. Finally, the link road to Matakana Road could continue to Sandspit Road in the longer run I suppose.

As a general scheme, this is what I’ve always envisaged when saying the words “Warkworth bypass”. It would be interesting to see how much a scheme like this would cost (somewhere in the $50-80m bracket is once again what I’ve always envisaged as we’re travelling over fairly flat land). I really do think such a scheme would largely solve the congestion issues we get in and around Warkworth – for at least a few decades to then work out if the whole Puhoi-Wellsford scheme is needed or not.

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