The Hill Street intersection is gaining more interest in the media over the past week. The Herald, Mahurangi Matters and Rodney Times ran articles. Mediaworks and LMLive covered our protest.
The news coverage in the past week has got us thinking.
There is empirical evidence that summer congestion in Warkworth is much worse than last year. Resident Lynne McNeill said she almost felt like a prisoner in her own town because of the traffic. (http://bit.ly/2jYIVoP)
Mahurangi Matters ran an article titled “Summer congestion tests tempers” (http://bit.ly/2kvw6pp). Congestion at Hill Street intersection seems to be a vicious cycle of frustration generating impatience, which escalates to risk-taking, leading to accidents, and emergency services responses being delayed by the congestion.
During the protest, LMLive’s Ben Donaldson filmed the Omokoroa truck involved in this accident (http://bit.ly/2kZrXad) passing through the traffic lights. Ten minutes later, it was ablaze near the Satellite Station, south of Warkworth. Gridlock quickly formed from the accident beyond the Hill Street intersection. When several vehicles pulled over to let Fire Service tankers from Matakana and Snells Beach through the intersection, one vehicle overtook the vehicles and almost had a head-on collision with the tankers.
The central problem with the Hill Street intersection’s design is that so much of its functionality relies on the courtesy and patience of drivers. The distance between the traffic lights and the Sandspit Road/Matakana Road intersection only allows for a queue of six vehicles, which regularly form. This means that vehicles from Sandspit Road rely on the courtesy of queued Matakana Road drivers to get through the intersection.
In the past 60 days, emergency services have responded to more than 60 accidents between Puhoi and Wellsford. And let’s not forget the near misses. Are impatience, inattention, and risk-taking the major causes?
We are wondering the scale that driver frustration contributes to the many accidents within 5km of Warkworth’s urban boundary.
Auckland Transport is running a campaign to encourage more alertness at non-signalled intersections under their management. They have identified several high-risk intersections and off-ramps. In the “Unlucky 13” is the “Matakana/Sandspit intersection,” which is effectively the Auckland Transport-managed part of the Hill Street intersection. (Herald: http://bit.ly/2jzCQ6o, Stuff: http://bit.ly/2kkfIWt)
We are delighted that the intersection has been recognized. We have made inquiries about what criteria Auckland Transport used to form that list. We are wondering whether this classification makes the intersection a priority, like the NZTA’s prioritisation criteria: http://bit.ly/2jYSuEq.
We understand that NZTA haven’t conducted any priority assessments on the Hill Street intersection, nor has one been conducted for the Matakana Link. I suppose if you don’t collect the data or make an assessment, the problem doesn’t officially exist, does it?
Renee Clayton from Rodney Times wrote an interesting article, which can be found here: http://bit.ly/2kUkrl4. In the article, NZTA Auckland and Northland Highways Manager Brett Gliddon made some insightful comments:
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.
Ummm… Gliddon’s “clear plan” (not Warkworth’s) is six more years of compounding congestion at the Hill Street intersection while the Puhoi-Warkworth Motorway and Matakana Link is built. By then, Hill Street will have double the traffic.
"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."
Excellent! So the only excuse now is the potential disruption of fixing the intersection. (Phew! We thought that we would need to fundraise and design it ourselves.)
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.
Have we got news for Brett! The Rodney Local Board of the Auckland Council has finalised plans to commence work on the upgrade of Kowhai Park (http://bit.ly/2kvlbft). It didn’t take long to prepare these plans or get the works organized. Works could commence as early as the end of next month and be completed within a season.
Included in the works is the replacement of the footbridge, new public toilets, new footpaths, landscaping, and the kerbing and sealing of the carpark. All in that “very narrow” and “sensitive natural area.”
Our team is delighted by this news. The local board is very aware of the potential of Kowhai Park to be reconfigured to allow for the upgrading of the intersection. The bridge and toilets are prefabricated and can be moved, which was a stipulation.
To our surprise, the configuration of the seal and kerbing is shaped like a small roundabout. Comparing with our much larger Pill-shaped roundabout design (http://bit.ly/2k2gokR), however, the works proposed in that space is much more intensive than our Pill design and closer to the “sensitive” areas.
The works are being conducted under a local board budget, not Auckland Transport’s or NZTA’s. The works are not on the intersection and will not disrupt the traffic. Effectively, the last phase of the works is the kerbing and sealing at the entrance to the park, which we understand will be done at night.
If the upgrade of the park can be done without disruption, then the upgrade of the intersection can be done without disruption. No more excuses.
Here is an overview of the proposed works at Kowhai Park.
If you thought that the Hill Street intersection couldn’t get any more confusing, we’ve received feedback about a near-miss at the intersection due to a confused driver trying to reconcile their Navman instructions with the signage at the intersection. Can you see how this happened?
According to government surveys and documentation, Browns Road (SH1) and Great North Road (SH1) intersect with Hill Street and Sandspit Road. Kowhai Park’s address (a former camping ground: http://bit.ly/2jZ9CK9) is 1 Sandspit Road. Signage at the intersection, however, has renamed the first 100 metres of Sandspit Road as Matakana Road. The possible reason for this informal renaming is due to the alignment of the intersection of Matakana and Sandspit Roads where Sandspit Road gives way to Matakana Road traffic. Still, there’s no need for such conflicting signage.
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