AA congestion data shows impact of Harbour Bridge shut-down

3 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 12, 2020

A freak gust of wind and a truck being caught in precisely the wrong place at precisely the wrong time resulted in a two-week-long traffic headache for many Aucklanders, but AA congestion data suggests the impact could have been a lot worse had traffic been at pre-Covid levels.

The Auckland Harbour Bridge was seriously damaged on 18 September when high winds blew a truck sideways, colliding with the bridge‘s superstructure. This resulted in four of the bridge‘s eight lanes being closed for five days, before a temporary fix was put in place that enabled two further lanes to open. Two-and-a-half weeks after the initial incident the final fix was carried out and all lanes were back in operation.

Unsurprisingly, the delays caused by the partial closure were massive.

“AA congestion data shows that, while the lanes were closed, some days it was taking morning commuters over an hour to get into the CBD from Albany on the Northern Motorway,” AA senior advisor – infrastructure, Sarah Geard says. “The week before the incident, the same trip was taking about 20 minutes during the morning rush-hour.

“Motorists seeking to avoid the carnage and take a different route didn‘t fare much better. The trip from Albany into the CBD via the Upper Harbour and Northwestern Motorways was also taking up to an hour, compared to about 30 minutes the previous week.”

But what‘s particularly interesting is just how much worse the traffic impacts would have been, if not for lower-than-usual traffic this year, as a result of Covid-19.

“With a big chunk of people working from home and economic activity tapering off, traffic is well down on previous years,” Geard says. “On many of the days that the bridge was at reduced capacity, the awful travel times we were seeing were actually little different from a ‘normal‘ day last year. If this had happened in pre-Covid times it‘s hard to see how the city would have coped.”

Geard said what this really underlined was the role that working from home – and the ability to switch to working from home when required – could play in keeping our cities moving.

“It‘s also a reminder of just how bad congestion levels had become prior to Covid-19. We need to do the work now to make sure we don‘t end up back in the same place.”