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Enormous pressure swamps Warkworth’s Hill Street intersection

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Warkworth's Hill Street Intersection continues to be under pressure.

Summer is in full swing, and traffic at Warkworth's Hill Street intersection continues to build up. Added to the extra holiday traffic are construction vehicles, used to build the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway.

Rodney Ward Councillor Greg Sayers has raised an issue around whether construction vehicles are using the intersection "illegally" during peak hours.

"NZTA experts considered their utes as construction traffic. During any morning or evening peak period, count the number of white utes emblazoned with contractor logos commuting to and from Snells Beach – using the Hill Street intersection," he says.

"The consenting authority has delegated monitoring of the construction traffic to Auckland Transport. We just aren't seeing any enforcement."

Sayers also points out the construction traffic conditions restrict the vehicles from using the intersection through peak hours due to reaching full capacity and says; "Yet, according to Auckland Transport, most of the time the intersection is already operating to capacity in all directions."

In response, NZTA's Highway Manager Brett Gliddon says the Northern Express Group, who are delivering the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway for the NZTA on behalf of the Government, is bound by conditions determining construction traffic.

"To prevent further congestion and minimise disruption at what is already a busy intersection, heavy construction traffic is not able to use the Hill Street intersection during the busiest traffic periods which include weekday morning and afternoon peak times, late Friday afternoons, Saturday mornings, Sunday afternoons and during public holiday Monday afternoons," he says.

"These restrictions have been factored into planning and timeframes for the project from the beginning. It is also worth noting that not all construction traffic needs to go through Hill Street intersection. The site will be accessed from a number of locations."

Gliddon says, the NZTA fully understands the frustrations of motorists caught in delays and says they have been working closely with the Warkworth community.

"There is both close cooperation between all parties and a clear plan ahead," he says.

"This plan does not, however, include a short term, major upgrade of Hill Street intersection. The reason for this is not a lack of funds or engineering ability - it's simply one of construction impact."

He says this is because the complex intersection is located in a very narrow valley that contains sensitive natural areas, and due to this and there being no bypass route, "any major construction would hugely disrupt local and through traffic for several years".

"Traffic delays from the construction activity would be so significant that it cancels out any benefits," Gliddon says.

Gliddon says the intersection is continuously being monitored by the Transport Operations Centre, and adjustments made to the signals operations will be based on real-time information around any queue lengths.

Auckland Transport has installed sensor technology on key links to the intersection, and the Government has accelerated the construction of the Puhoi to Warkworth motorway.

They are also planning on building a new northern link to Matakana Road beginning in 2019.

"When all of this work has been done there'll be an upgrade of the Hill Street intersection. This will be based on traffic flows at that time," Gliddon says.

Fix Hill Street Now Action Group member and former infrastructure analyst Grant McLachlan says it is not enough, and the intersection needs to be fixed now.

"The Environment Protection Agency, has delegated administration and monitoring of the consent to Auckland Council. They are meant to check that no construction traffic is using the Hill Street intersection during "peak" periods. They aren't," he says.

Residents have fought for many years to get the intersection bumped up on New Zealand Transport Agency and Auckland Transport's priority list, but have been unsuccessful.

They argue the congestion will get worse in time due to population growth and construction vehicles using it for other projects.

Sayers agrees and says the intersection "has been the worst intersection in the country for as long as many can remember. Even by NZTA and AT's reckoning, traffic congestion at the intersection will get much worse each year even after the completion of the motorway and other link roads. It needs to be fixed now".

Sayers says he wants a fully-funded and fast-tracked project to replace the intersection with a long-term solution.

"I believe that it can be done efficiently and with minimal disruption. Auckland needs to build infrastructure capacity before it allows more growth," he says.

Sayers says he has the support of the Rodney local board, local community groups, local Members of Parliament, and the Mayor.

"I will be presenting our case to the minister, Simon Bridges along with local MP the Hon Mark Mitchell," he adds.

The $700 million Puhoi to Warkworth project is said to be opened to the public by 2022.

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