Summer road works in full swing before Christmas in Northland

6 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineNovember 25, 2020

The NZ Transport Agency is working hard to complete a programme of road repairs and resurfacing on state highways across Northland before Christmas.

This summer season NZTA is looking to renew 110 lane kilometres of state highway in Northland and is on track to complete about 30% of that before the Christmas holiday break.

“The $6.6 million repair and resurfacing programme in Northland is part of a $127 million dollar investment across the country in maintaining and improving our state highways to make them safe and resilient,” says NZTA senior system manager Wayne Oldfield.

“There will be work at 2400 sites across the country, which will see around 8 percent of the total state highway network resealed or repaired. That‘s about 1900 lane kilometres of road, or the equivalent of a single lane on SH1 from Bluff to Kaitaia.”

Oldfield says it‘s a huge undertaking and follows last year‘s biggest ever annual maintenance programme.

“It‘s important to note, this summer‘s investment does not include what we are investing in capital projects, and it doesn‘t take into account the money set aside for emergency repairs for unanticipated events such as storms. The maintenance budget has not been constrained by the impacts of Covid-19,” says Oldfield.

In Northland, road repairs have so far been completed on SH1 around Warkworth and south of the Rewa Rewa Road intersection in Whangarei.  Works are also underway at Springs Flat, north of Whangarei. 

Road repairs have been completed ahead of pre-Christmas resurfacing on SH1 between Kawakawa and Ohaeawai, and from the northern side of the Mangamuka Gorge to Cape Reinga. Reseals on four sites north of Kaitaia and one south of Kaitaia have been completed and another three sections on SH10 north of Taipa will also be resealed before Christmas. There has been extra traffic on SH10 since July after a slip closed SH1 through the Mangamuka Gorge.

“October through to March is our peak maintenance period. The warmer spring and summer months are the best time for resurfacing as daylight hours are longer, and the warm temperatures and dry air help the new seal stick to the road surface. It‘s also the best time for a lot of the earthworks on our major projects.”

Oldfield advises motorists to take care around work sites and road workers.

“Traffic management, such as temporary speed limits, signs and cones, is used to alert road users to a change in the road or to works ahead, and it helps to keep our road workers safe. It‘s particularly important that motorists remain patient and don‘t try to overtake while our crews set up and take down traffic management signs and cones. When motorists disregard the traffic management, they put their safety, that of other road users and our road workers at risk.”

Oldfield says speeding through work sites is a significant problem, as speeding vehicles can flick up loose metal and other objects that are a danger to road workers and other road users.

“Motorists also have less control at higher speeds. They may clip road cones and send them flying at our road workers or oncoming traffic, or lose control completely.

“Ultimately, motorists need to put themselves in the boots of our workers and understand the very real danger their driving behaviour can create, not just for our workers, but for themselves and other road users as well.

“Roadworkers are someone‘s husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister. They go to work, do long hours, and expect to go home safely at the end of the day. Safety is our highest priority, but we can‘t keep our people safe if other road users show no regard for their wellbeing.”

Apart from emergency callouts, all road works will stop from 23 December to 5 January, keeping the roads clear for people to travel safely over what is expected to be a busy Christmas holiday period. Drivers are asked to drive with care and keep to temporary speed limits.

“Even when there is no one on site working, we may leave speed limits in place to protect road users. We need to consider reduced visibility and temporary surfaces at night, in bad weather and for all vulnerable users too (e.g., motorcycles, bikes and pedestrians). We need to identify any hazards and alert drivers to changes that they may not be expecting (e.g., reduced road widths, changes to road layout). 

“Many people overestimate the time they would lose if they drove at a slower speed. Safety is our highest priority and if safe speeds are not observed through our road work sites, we may need to use more restrictive temporary traffic management, such as road closures, which will have a greater impact on travel time.”