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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is urging more people to use public transport or drive via the Western Ring Route even though two additional lanes opened yesterday on the Auckland Harbour Bridge.

“The extra lanes did help ease congestion last night and this morning, but so has the significant reduction in vehicles crossing the bridge each day. We don’t want people to assume that it’s ok to return to their cars and their normal travel patterns. The bridge will remain in a vulnerable state for weeks until there’s a permanent replacement and two of the bridge’s eight lanes remain closed,” says Waka Kotahi General Manager Transport Services, Brett Gliddon.

“It’s been great to see how people have responded to our push to switch to public transport earlier in the week. There’s been a big shift already, especially on the ferries from the North Shore, but we still need to see more people on buses and ferries over a continued period of time.”

The start of the school holidays and the easing of COVID Alert Level restrictions in Auckland will also bring new challenges for the motorway network, with people wanting to leave the city on holiday or to visit family and friends. Larger gatherings are permitted, weekend sports can resume and people will be more inclined to come into the city in the evening and at the weekend.

“If you need to travel by car, plan ahead, allow plenty of extra time and avoid peak traffic periods. Use the Western Ring Route via SH16 and SH18 as an alternative to SH1 and the bridge. We also encourage motorists to check the online journey planner apps to see which is the least congested and quickest route before leaving home.”

The Waka Kotahi operations team and Auckland Transport is continuing to provide the latest real time travel information to help people make informed travel decisions and minimise delays for customers.

Auckland Transport says there are still plenty of seats available on buses and ferries despite big increases in patronage through the week. Regular services, especially on Northern Express routes to and from the North Shore are running close to schedule and are likely to have shorter travel times than cars. Again this morning, Northern Express buses were taking an average 25 minutes from Albany to the city, while cars were taking 40 minutes.

Yesterday more than 200,000 people used public transport, up 7.1% on Wednesday last week, with buses up 5% and ferries up 73.5%.

“With even more Aucklanders using public transport yesterday, we want to thank everyone for continuing to play a part in reducing the strain on Auckland Harbour Bridge this week,” says Shane Ellison, ATs Chief Executive.

“There’s still work to be done though, and we have plenty of capacity on public transport, so we encourage you to take a bus, ferry or train to help everyone get to where they need to go quickly and safely.”

State Highway 1 traffic volumes across the Auckland Harbour Bridge this week have been down about 50%, with similar increases in vehicles using the Western Ring Route (SH16/SH18). More traffic on the ring route has caused congestion and delays for people in the western suburbs, who should also switch to public transport or plan ahead and allow extra time for their journeys.

Brett Gliddon says Waka Kotahi would like to recognise the ongoing support of the freight industry in using the Western Ring Road during the recovery of the bridge.

No overweight or over-dimension  vehicles are currently allowed on the Harbour Bridge and Waka Kotahi asks that heavy vehicles use the Western Ring Route as an alternative route until the permanent solution is installed.

On Tuesday night Waka Kotahi successfully completed a complex repair to temporarily fix the strut that was damaged when it was hit by a truck in 127 kph wind gusts on Friday. The lower half of the 22.7 metre strut has been replaced.

With the temporary strut in place, two lanes on the bridge centre span were opened to traffic on Wednesday morning, but the bridge is still in a more compromised state than usual and loads on the bridge will need to be managed carefully. This will remain until the permanent solution is in place and the bridge can support its full weight capacity again.

“We are making good progress on the permanent repair. The steel has been sourced and design specifications are developing so fabrication of the new strut can begin. Once the strut has been built it will be lifted into place but then the more complex work will begin. This will involve what is likely to be weeks of testing and adjustments to the tension of the new strut with the rest of the bridge to ensure it is operating as it should.”

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