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The Gauntlet: Issue #17



Newsletter #17 - 12 January 2017

Over the past week, our online petition has been steadily ticking away as more people stuck in traffic have got out their tablets and smartphones and supported it. Thank you for your support.


We’ve also received several messages of support and inquiries. One inquiry – from a member of a residents’ association – got us thinking. As we’ve received a flurry of subscriptions in the past fortnight, now would be a good time to provide a “Weekend Big Read” as you relax in the shade.

WHO IS THE BIGGEST LOSER?

The trial closure of Elizabeth Street to State Highway 1, Hill Street, and Kowhai Park traffic divided the town in many ways. The official reason was to see whether it would improve safety and traffic flow. Considering the NZTA’s stance is to not look at fixing the overall problem with the intersection until after the Tollway is built, it was perceived by many as a cynical attempt to fudge public opinion in the meantime.


The trial and an overall fix are two separate issues. What the trial did raise was awareness that an overall solution was necessary that benefited everyone, not just a temporary trial that benefited some at the cost of others.


We wondered who would be the biggest loser if nothing is done to fix Hill Street. The Hill Street intersection is a temperamental eight-limbed beast where each limb is affected in different ways. Here is a consolidated assessment. Scroll down to see how it affects you.

MILLSTREAM PLACE

The most immediately affected neighbourhood by the Hill Street intersection are 16 dwellings on Millstream Place. With a 100 percent dwelling occupancy and a population of 41 according to the 2013 Census, they drive 31 vehicles and generate approximately 200 traffic movements a day – 90 percent turning left out of the cul-de-sac.


While there are pedestrian connections with Elizabeth Street, there are no proper pedestrian crossings on Elizabeth Street or Sandspit Road. Road vehicle access is complicated by the proximity of the confluence of Sandspit and Matakana Roads into two lanes and the steady volume of traffic. While there are rarely queues out or into Millstream Place, waiting times are often at the mercy of the courtesy of Sandspit Road traffic, including traffic that often blocks entry into Millstream Place. When one southbound vehicle on Sandspit Road blocks entry for a vehicle turning right into Millstream Place, a queue can quickly result in gridlock beyond Elizabeth Street and the traffic lights.


Overall, while the least amount of traffic is affected of those groups covered and the journey time factor is also the least of those groups affected, the position of its intersection can cause considerable gridlock.


KOWHAI PARK

Users of the park fall into three categories:


1. Users of the public toilets, including the motorhome dumping station; 2. Park-and-ride commuters; and 3. Recreational users of the park.

Pedestrian access from along Matakana Road is via an unsealed path. There is no “formal” pedestrian crossing across Sandspit Road. Road vehicle access to the carpark is the most difficult for Elizabeth Street as motorists need to give way to four directions. As the exit is controlled by a stop sign, traffic has to give way to all other traffic. Turning right onto Sandspit Road or Elizabeth Street is the riskiest of all turning combinations at the intersection.


HILL STREET

Hill Street is one of three roads (Hudson and Falls Roads being the others) connecting an area of approximately 500 dwellings, a school, a kindergarten, and a dozen industrial sites to Warkworth’s road network. Latest traffic counts on Hill Street near the traffic lights show a daily average traffic of 3344, AM peak hour volume of 601, and PM peaks of 320 (3-4pm) and 430 (5-6pm).


Currently, green traffic light phases are 8-10 seconds approximately 90-100 seconds apart. Queues at school start and end times often stretch beyond the school entrances. Right-turning traffic into Hill Street is restricted to allow for a longer green light phase for State Highway 1 northbound through and right-turning traffic.


While the Mansel Drive connection with Falls Road offers an alternative route at times of congestion, it is a less direct route towards the town centre. The completion of the Western Collector between the Falls Road/Mansel Drive intersection and State Highway 1/Matakana Link intersection relies on a “Millwater”-style development of at least 1500 dwellings, which could quadruple Hill Street traffic towards the traffic lights. In the meantime, the Auckland Unitary Plan allows for potentially another 500-600 dwellings of “in-fill” which could double current traffic volume.


While the area has alternative routes, the NZTA has used this as an excuse to restrict turning options for Hill Street at the intersection. This area is the most vulnerable to restrictions as congestion gets worse.


MELWOOD DRIVE

This cluster of approximately 250 dwellings (with another 30 being built) intersects with Matakana Road at the northern urban perimeter of Warkworth. The completed development of six ring roads and cul-de-sacs won’t have any other connecting roads and will rely on the one intersection with Matakana Road for access.


A high proportion of elderly motorists contend with high volumes of Matakana Road traffic exceeding the 50km/h limit close to a 80km/h zone with poor sight distances in all directions. Pedestrian access to town is by way of an informal pedestrian crossing between the Elizabeth Street/Kowhai Park intersection with Sandspit Road and the Millstream Place/Matakana Road/Sandspit Road confluence.


While Auckland Transport haven’t gathered any traffic data on this road, we estimate that daily traffic volumes are between 1500-1700. While queues rarely form out of Melwood, queues from the Hill Street intersection reach the Melwood intersection at workday AM, Sunday PM, and Holiday End peaks. These queues will be more frequent and longer due to traffic growth from development of the 1800-2200 dwelling Northern Growth Cell bordering this subdivision and other developments beyond.


Most traffic out of Melwood Drive turns right and motorists often rely on the courtesy of Matakana Road motorists when queues stretch past that intersection. “Courtesy” will be tested as congestion deteriorates.


TOWN CENTRE

Elizabeth Street is one of two acc