Wellington Scoop

SH1 passing lanes closed “to improve traffic flows”

The Transport Agency is again closing passing lanes on the Kapiti Coast near Te Horo and Otaki this weekend, claiming that this will improve traffic flow. There’s been no official announcement, but the decision was reported in the DomPost.

The closure of the passing lanes is supported by the police, says the Agency. Its explanation:

”Passing lanes are only effective when traffic is flowing freely. When roads are chocka-block, using passing lanes is like having two queues for the same bank teller. In heavy traffic, people may try to jump the queue then attempt to merge back into the traffic jam. This causes people to brake suddenly, which can upset the gradual but steady traffic flow, and cause nose-to-tail crashes. That’s the reason the passing lanes are closed when the roads are at capacity – more vehicles get through per hour due to the smoother flow of traffic, while also improving safety.”

Sunday update: Passing lanes closed

Four years ago, the Agency announced a similar plan.

Press Release – New Zealand Transport Agency – December 23, 2009
With traffic expected to be heavy over the Christmas holiday period, NZTA is advising motorists to plan ahead to avoid expected delays. During peak travel times, NZTA will be closing the SH 1 northbound passing lanes at Waikanae and Te Horo and the southbound passing lane north of Otaki.

The closure of the northbound passing lanes will take effect from 10am Thursday 24 December and will be reopened on Sunday, 27 December at approximately 4.00pm or a time appropriate to traffic flows. On Monday, 4 January NZTA will close the SH 1 southbound passing lane, north of Otaki, which will be reopened at about 9.00pm depending on traffic flows.

Wellington Operations Manager Mark Owen says the closure of the passing lanes is done for safety purposes and to improve traffic flows. “The lanes will be appropriately signposted and fenced off with traffic cones, but we’re reminding people to obey the normal road rules by keeping left. If traffic remains heavy, passing lanes will remain closed longer until we are satisfied it is practical to reopen them…”

Mr Owen says the public often express concern that closing the passing lanes causes congestion, however, NZTA experience demonstrates benefits for both traffic flow and safety.

“Closing the passing lanes produces a steadier flow of single lane traffic and reduces the number of vehicles trying to get one car length ahead during a busy period on the road. By keeping people in one steady stream we also reduce the potential for accidents at the merge of the passing lanes.”

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  1. Trish Janes, 28. December 2009, 14:38

    Is it a good thing that NZTA applies different policies in different regions to reflect the different curvature of the earth or whatever. Or is there really a difference in the empirical results of experiments in different regions?

    While the Wellington region NZTA religiously closes passing lanes up the Kapiti coast every long weekend as an Act of Faith, the Transport Agency northern highways manager Tommy Parker told the NZ Herald on 28 December 2009 that lanes are not closed in his region:

    “Despite extra difficulties observed by Herald staff where traffic ground to a standstill in attempted mergers at the end of passing lanes, Mr Parker said the agency was not considering temporarily closing the lanes to simplify flows.

    He said that had not been done for years. The agency had discontinued the practice because it believed some drivers became confused and erratic when confronted by cones blocking the lanes.
    As well, the agency had no evidence that blocking the lanes improved flow.”

  2. mps, 4. January 2013, 18:06

    wtf? here we’re hardly moving near otaki with with 2 screaming infants , so much for improved flow? !

  3. traveller, 6. January 2013, 10:35

    The 90 minute drive from Waitarere into Wellington took more than two hours on Saturday night, thanks to the Transport Agency. It was re-sealing the road at Paekakariki, and traffic was reduced to one lane. Resulting in huge lines of stationery vehicles. Clever idea for the peak holiday season.

  4. Polly, 6. January 2013, 16:29

    Have just returned from Waikanae to Wellington. Only a slight hold up at Paekakariki, took 45 minutes. Just one problem: the heat! What a glorious sight there and back – all the Pohutakawa trees…… and families swimming in rivers and beaches….. Happy New Year