Kapiti Traffic Congestion Goes North

Expressway helps only so much

By Roger Childs

Expressway congestion south of Peka Peka. (Credit NZTA)

We decided to head for New Plymouth for Christmas on Saturday December 23. Surely the big rush would have been on the Friday, with more going north on Christmas Eve.

Hard to know what happened, but we had a quick ride to about 1km south of Peka Peka, then the traffic was clogged.

It took us an hour from there to get to Otaki.

The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA), put up electronic displays about what they quaintly describe as SUMMER JOURNEYS. The message was EXPECT DELAYS.

The expressway has solved the congestion problem within Kapiti south of Peka Peka, but the issue has merely been shunted further north.

Melding takes time

Kapiti readers will recall the horrendous congestion from Pukerua Bay to Waikanae on the old State Highway during the evening commuter hours and on holiday weekends. Further north traffic coming south was always held up on Sunday afternoons as people headed back to the  Porirua Basin, Wellington and the Hutt Valley.

Having two lanes available, does speed up traffic for a while, but the inevitable meld slows the traffic dramatically. When we travelled north on the Saturday before Christmas, the end of the expressway meant that four lanes had to meld into one.

Coming south on the Wednesday after Easter the problem was very obvious. As we moved unhindered south of Otaki, the traffic headed north was clogged up from the Otaki roundabout to about 1km north of Te Moana Road in Waikanae!

Four lanes north and south will help

April 2020 will see the opening of the long awaited Transmission Gully highway to Tawa and the extension of the Kapiti Expressway to north of Otaki.

This will mean that there will be a four lane highway from the northern edge of the Kapiti District into the capital.  Commuters into and out of Wellington, and holidays and weekend travellers from Greater Wellington have suffered long delays for decades, and the new linked-up 80km highway will be a great relief.

However, there is no question that increased spending on improving the efficiency of public transport is a necessity. However, inevitably there will be cars and trucks wanting to quickly get to places in the Greater Wellington area, which are not readily accessible by trains and buses.

Using public transport

The train can be faster.

A blend of motorway access and efficient public transport is the logical way to go. The packed car parks at Waikanae and Paraparaumu are testimony to the popularity of the commuter trains.

Encouraging people to use the railway services from Kapiti south is highly desirable.  Pensioners can do so for nothing with the Gold Card, and Winston’s 9.00am train from Waikanae is always popular.

Coming home for the oldies is more problematic. Whereas Auckland allows Hop Card holders to travel in the afternoon and evening when they like, Wellington closes the gate at 3.00pm.

It’s time for the Greater Wellington Regional Council to catch up.