Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency motorway construction projects moved to take advantage of reduced traffic volumes on Auckland’s motorways during the recent lockdown under Alert Level 3 after Covid-19 returned within the community.
Across Auckland’s motorway network, traffic volumes dropped by as much as 50% after the region went into Alert Level 3 on Wednesday 12 August. “The call to work from home if possible, to stay local and to only make essential journeys had a marked effect on traffic volumes. We noticed it during the lockdowns earlier in the year, but our construction projects were only able to take limited advantage of it,” says Waka Kotahi senior manager Andrew Thackwray.
“This time, as Auckland went into Alert Level 3, we saw an opportunity to extend night shift work on projects to increase productivity.”
EXTENDED NIGHT HOURS
The Northern Corridor Improvements project (SH1), which is improving motorway connections between SH1 and SH18, extending the Northern Busway to Albany and building walking and cycling paths, increased its night shift by more than two hours, starting 90 minutes earlier and finishing an hour later.
“Usually the night shift is from 9pm to 5am with strict rules about being off the motorway before the start of morning peak-time traffic. With no morning peak, our teams were able to work longer, be safer and get so much more done,” Mr Thackwray says.
“Auckland went back into Alert Level 3 with less than a day’s notice so there was no time to schedule work specifically to take advantage of the lockdown. However, we were able to implement motorway lane closures and put in detours, as we usually would. The difference was that we could keep them in place for longer, giving the teams more time to work in different areas to get things done without disruption to our customers.”
On the Southern Corridor Improvements project (SH1), the night shift road sealing team also extended its hours to take advantage of reduced traffic volumes. “The plan was to make productivity gains, but surfacing work needs dry conditions and the wet weather wasn’t helpful,” Mr Thackwray says.
MORE PROGRESS ACHIEVED
The longer shifts and road closures required extensive planning and coordination, Mr Thackwray notes. “We’re learning as we go – the more agile and responsive to the alert levels we are, the more our projects can benefit.”
Further north on SH1, the Dome Valley safety improvements project moved a night shift to the day shift to take advantage of reduced traffic. The team has been working on paving construction, which is the preparation of the road’s base course so it is ready for asphalt sealing in fine weather.
“This work is usually done at night to minimise disruption for SH1 traffic, but moving it to the daytime meant much more progress could be achieved, and with traffic significantly reduced, it was safer for the work crews,” Mr Thackwray adds.