Wow! What a week! We got the first of our billboards up (another will be erected for this weekend), Steve Hathaway has gathered some great drone footage so far, the documentary crew filmed us over the weekend, and the worst traffic weekend of the year starts on Friday! We’ll be out in force to collect data and footage.
A BIG THANK YOU
Thank you to Leigh at ECM Signs and our donors for getting our billboards made. The billboard campaign we have in store will hopefully generate discussion.
John Key has been making the right noises about Hill Street. Thank you, Ben Donaldson, at LM Live for cornering him. Our Prime Minister and part-time Omaha resident said "the quicker that it can be resolved, the better.” Check out the clip here: http://bit.ly/2evBzY9.
A little bird told us that he had a close call pulling out of Elizabeth Street on the way to his place at Omaha.
Talking about being cornered, thank you to everyone who honked their horns at us filming on Kowhai Park. The traffic noise and weather was bad enough, but we had to use the toilet block to re-film some audio. We got some strange looks from rubberneckers when we emerged. One chap even posted on Facebook a film clip of us emerging.
By the way, another reason to fix Hill Street now is to replace that toilet block and dumping station. It’s not a good look (or smell) for Warkworth.
One thing that the film crew and our team noticed was all the vehicle and sign debris around the intersection, especially on the corner of Elizabeth Street and Sandspit Road. There have been two accidents in that position in the past week. Two signs are missing and a give way sign is rotated 90 degrees.
Watching traffic leave Kowhai Park, it became apparent several safety issues. Firstly, the camber is so high the opposing road markings are not visible (if traffic isn’t already obscuring it). Secondly, the opposing give way and stop signs aren’t noticeable. Thirdly, many vehicles turning out of Elizabeth Street do not indicate, thinking that being in a turning lane suffices (the right turning lane also means that they are heading straight towards Kowhai Park.) Fourthly, knowledge of the give way rules is a significant problem.
It must be noted that, from December, traffic leaving Kowhai Park will no longer be able to enter Elizabeth Street but can still turn left and right.
Being a stop sign, New Zealand’s give way rules are different to most other countries. The 2012 give way rule changes was to bring our road code into harmony with other countries. The one rule that wasn’t changed was the status of stop signs versus give way signs.
In most countries, a stop sign is a give way where vehicles must come to a complete halt. Where a stop sign is opposite a give way sign, the normal give way rules apply where both controls are given equal status. Check out this clip: http://bit.ly/2emGNp4.
In Queensland, A gives way to B.
In New Zealand, however, stop must give way to all other traffic, including give ways. Check out this link: http://bit.ly/2edUMNy .
This raises several questions. How many returning expats and foreigners are aware of this rule? How many New Zealanders are aware of this rule? How many accidents at Hill Street have resulted from ignorance of this rule? Is this the next give way rule that needs to change?
Here are the changes that were brought into force in 2012: http://bit.ly/2enhG5U.
Here is the view from Kowhai Park. Can you see the road markings and give way sign on Elizabeth Street?
ON THE FRONT LINE
Talking about safety, information gets to us quick. One of our team lives next to the local tow truck driver, police officer, fire service, and helipad. (Yes, the rates and the insurance premiums are low.)
In the past week, there have been several crashes at Hill Street. What concerned us most was a serious accident involving a child in Mahurangi East. Emergency services recommended that a father drive his seriously injured daughter to North Shore Hospital due to their response times through weekend congestion.
GET THE DATA
You may have noticed that our team has been at the intersection with a stopwatch and notepad. That’s because we’ve needed to collect accurate data.
It is important to know not just traffic volumes down the road from intersections but also turning volumes at the intersection, how long green light and red light phases are, how many vehicles clear the intersection with each phase, and queue lengths.
With the data we have, we been able to simulate the intersection in our computer models. We have worked out the problem areas, calculated the capacity of the intersection, and generated several models that could fix the intersection.
For example, there are currently four traffic light phases that the controlling program (called SCATS) chooses in response to sensor information. The green light phases are between 10-40 seconds and red light phases are 90-120 seconds.
We’ve worked out that the capacity of the intersection ranges between 2600 to 3,200 per hour, depending on the severity of gridlock on Sandspit Road and Elizabeth Streets. This capacity includes 400 local traffic movements not using the traffic light-controlled area of the intersection. The capacity is reached three times a weekday and four times during the weekend.
What is interesting is that, according to NZTA data, the 2009 holiday start peak flow was 2630 vehicles per hour and 3130 for holiday end. What that data does not take into account is that the intersection was only allowing through that traffic per hour while queues stretched for miles. Further away from the intersection, the hourly volumes are much higher, suggesting that as high as three times that number are trying to get through the intersection.
In the same evidence that NZTA produced to the Tollway Board of Inquiry, the NZTA then projected that, by the time that the Tollway, Matakana Link, and Western Collector are complete in 2026, more than 3,500 and 4,000 vehicles per hour will want to use the intersection at holiday start and end respectively.
Can you see the problem? If NZTA’s 2009 data is off, how can they come up with the 2026 projections? For all we know, the 2009 peak flow was 8,000 per hour and, applying the same projection criteria, the 2026 peak flow could be more than 10,000 per hour!
Think about this when using the intersection during Labour Weekend. If you’re avoiding the intersection, you can check out our simulation here: http://bit.ly/2eTix0T. Or, even better, check out the traffic congestion live on Google Maps here: http://bit.ly/2elEqCm.
QUICK TO THE QUEUE
While progress on roading projects are taking their time, housing developments aren’t. Just in the past couple of days, two major developments have been announced in Warkworth.
The first is what can be described as ‘infill’, where an existing unoccupied or under-utilized lot is developed, often with a more intensive use. In this case, it is a retirement village in the old Price Cutter site on Neville Street. See here for more details: http://bit.ly/2eubQy8.
If you drive around Warkworth, there are many other vacant or under-utilized sites, based on their zoning and what planners call a ‘permitted baseline’. One Warkworth suggests that, under the Unitary Plan, the amount of infill could amount to over 1000 dwellings.
While retirement village residents, as a guide, generate less traffic, the villages tend to be more intensive – meaning that they produce a similar amount of traffic per hectare than the same area made up of one dwelling per lot 600sqm residential lots. Add to that the construction traffic, service vehicles and visitor traffic, retirement villages can create more traffic than standard residential subdivisions.
Fortunately, the Neville Street site would rely more on Whitaker Road rather than Elizabeth Street, meaning that it shouldn’t affect Hill Street. The same can’t be said for the second development on Falls Road.
As the Mahurangi Matters reported, developers “Plan to fast track Warkworth ‘Millwater’ development.” The development will be “hundreds of houses, a large retirement village, and a mix-use area for businesses and apartments.” Although the site is zoned for future urban development, to reduce the six-year wait they propose lodging a resource consent next year, after a structure plan and plan change. Here are the details: http://bit.ly/2euctri.
While it is expected that the site will be central to completing the Western Collector ring road – and construction traffic would use the completed Mansel Drive part of that collector – the traffic towards the Hill Street intersection will increase. Whether it is commuting to the construction site or residents going to the beach, markets, supermarkets or The Warehouse, by NZTA’s estimates traffic from that direction will quadruple.
Here’s hoping that all the construction increases the impetus to fix Hill Street first. We don’t want to make submissions against developments because the council is dragging its heels with its infrastructure.
Talking about drama, Warkworth Theatre Group has a short play "That Bloody Intersection" as part of their show in late November. Watch this space for more details.
WHAT IS NEXT?
The next week will be busy. Drone filming continues over Labour Weekend. More billboards will be up. There will be more presentations and meetings.
If you would like to donate to our campaign, have ideas, or want to get involved in any other way, please send us a message on our website.