Queen’s birthday traffic: when’s the best time to travel?

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New Zealand

Waka Kotahi predicts traffic will be heaviest between 2pm and 5pm for those looking to escape Auckland. Photo/NZME

Are you leaving Auckland this afternoon? Prepare for significant delays even if you leave work early.

That’s the message from transport agency Waka Kotahi NZ, which warns holidaymakers of traffic jams heading north and south out of town.

Waka Kotahi said the northbound Johnstones Hill Tunnel on SH1 will remain closed this Queen’s Birthday weekend. Those traveling north are encouraged to avoid rush hour or take a detour via SH16 to avoid heavy traffic, delays and long lines.

The northbound tunnel is currently closed due to ongoing works required to construct the connection between the new Ara Tūhono – Pūhoi Expressway in Warkworth and the existing SH1.

With a closed tunnel, traffic traveling in both directions will use one side of each southbound tunnel.

Based on previous years, Manukau in Bombay will be poorly backed up between 2-5pm and slower than normal until 6:30pm.

And those hoping to avoid traffic by waiting until Saturday to leave town should also beware – southbound traffic is also expected to be slow between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m. tomorrow.

Northbound delays are expected today on SH1 between Puhoi and Wellsford between 1pm and 6pm, with the heaviest traffic between 2pm and 5pm.

Traffic forecasts for all major cities are available through NZTA’s Holiday Trip Planner.

Road authorities are also hoping to avoid a repeat of the Queen’s birthday weekend last year, when three people died on the roads.

Around 140 people are also injured in crashes on New Zealand roads each Queen’s Birthday weekend, according to NZTA figures.

The holiday season begins at 4 p.m. today and ends at 6 p.m. on Tuesday.

Transport Minister Michael Wood said of the millions of miles driven this weekend, drivers will either make mistakes or bear the brunt of someone else’s mistakes.

Wood said one person was killed on New Zealand roads every day and seven seriously injured.

“We need to stop accepting that deaths on our roads are inevitable,” he said.

Police Minister Poto Williams said police would be out in force over the weekend, focusing on speeding, impaired drivers and distracted drivers.

“Drivers must take their time, be courteous and respect the rules of the road, they are there to ensure the safety of all of us.

“Anyone who witnesses dangerous behavior should report it to the police, and any driver can expect to be arrested if they do not drive safely.”

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