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Drone footage of the Hill Street intersection over the past fortnight, including during Labour Weekend. The fullscreen feature does not work on this page but does work at the original link above.
Labour Weekend sprung upon Auckland - and left it's bad traffic behind.
The infamous Warkworth Hill Street intersection was yet again a nightmare for people travelling up north for the long weekend.
Hundreds of people were frustratedly waiting in their cars to get through the intersection in the boiling heat despite the traffic volumes being down from previous years.
Fix Hill Street Now Action Group member and former infrastructure analyst Grant McLachlan believes the volumes and congestion of Labour Weekend were similar to an average weekend.
McLachlan says, the Hill Street "congestion is not just a holiday problem anymore but now occurs several times daily. The [Pūhoi to Wellsford Road of National Significance] Board of Inquiry recognised this when they imposed strict conditions to the northern tollway's resource consent, which limited construction traffic to outside weekday, weekend, and holiday peak periods."
The group believes if the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) fixed the intersection now they could build the tollway sooner.
"In the NZTA's evidence for their tollway application, they said that the tollway's annual average daily traffic would be 5,700 vehicles, which is the equivalent of 90 minutes of traffic at Hill Street intersection currently," McLachlan says.
"NZTA seem to have this 'build it and they will come' attitude to the tollway but have a 'we won't touch it so stay away' attitude towards Hill Street. NZTA's traffic congestion advance warnings scared people away from the region."
The group alongside Snells Beach resident, Steve Hathaway have been out filming and comparing the everyday traffic to holiday traffic for the past two weeks including the long weekend.
What they noticed was "there is little disparity and clearly the congestion is a regular problem daily. The layout of the intersection – where there are five intersections within 30 metres – makes the flow temperamental and susceptible to gridlock."
The group has started a billboard campaign to raise awareness around the issue and hope it will help create permanent change.
Due to the congestion being an ongoing problem Auckland Transport (AT) and NZTA have come up with an interim three month trial that is said to commence from November 7.
This trial will involve the banning of turning right onto Elizabeth Street in the hope to reduce one set of traffic movements and help vehicles move easily through the intersection.
Changes will include using half a dozen orange 'safe-hit' flexible posts and removing the giveway from Sandspit Road adjacent to Elizabeth Street.
It will also include the installing of additional queue detector loops, both on the highway and on Matakana Rd approaches to help monitor traffic flow and help signal timings to be adapted as soon as the intersection starts to become congested.
NZTA's Sarah Azam hopes by simplifying the number of turning movements, it will reduce confusion and make it easier to use.
"Drivers on the state highway will enter Warkworth town centre at Whitaker Road (south of Hill St), drivers exiting Hill St will turn right onto the state highway and enter Warkworth township via Whitaker Rd, and drivers exiting Warkworth at Elizabeth St will continue to have unrestricted movement at this intersection," she says.
McLachlan believes it is a safety fix as it removes confusion, but says "it will increase congestion."
"The trial will send State Highway 1 and Hill Street traffic on a two kilometre detour through the congested Hill St, Whitaker Rd, and Mill Rd/Neville St intersections. That is a lose-lose-lose short term hindrance when there is the money to find a long term solution," he says.
"We will continue to share our research to show locals that there is no quick fixes for Hill Street. The fundamental shape of the intersection is the problem, which hasn't changed since 1955."