Digger motorway crash cost Akl 'millions'

A digger hitting the Penrose bridge along Auckland's Southern Motorway yesterday afternoon shouldn't have brought the city to a stand-still, but it did.

An overheight truck with a digger on the back closed two lanes on the south-bound motorway around 1:20pm. They weren't reopened until 4:37pm.

It caused major delays and cancellations, and chief executive Michael Barnett from the Auckland Chamber of Commerce says it was reckless.

Digger motorway crash cost Akl 'millions'

"It didn't have to happen. The truck was overheight. They should have never been on the road.

"What would disappoint most road users is the length of time it takes to clear the motorway. I think that was extraordinary.

"We all value our time…the fact is, it would have been tens of millions of dollars and it's a bad look for Auckland."

He says it's an issue the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) need to look at.

"We should have extraordinary behaviours to respond to these extraordinary conditions. We can’t just take our time. We need to act faster."

He says Auckland is in catch-up mode, and whoever becomes the next Auckland Mayor needs to bring the date forward on transport projects.

"For 40 years political organisation from whichever side did very little for Auckland. For me that is a great concern.

"What we're a bit slow on here in Auckland is action. If we don't, we will get a reputation for roading...and people will stop investing here."

Already there is discontent among Aucklanders, who face gridlock traffic every day.

An AA survey released today showed among 1300 responses, close to half said they are seriously considering changing jobs or moving out of the city.

"The survey highlights congestion is driving Aucklanders to breaking point," says AA spokesperson Barney Irvine.

Digger motorway crash cost Akl 'millions'

He says it underlines public anxiety towards congestion and Auckland's ability to cope with growth.

He says more and more Aucklanders are becoming stressed out as congestion rises.

"We should focus more in the smaller projects that are going to make a difference now."

He says this includes traffic light phasing, lane adjustment and a stronger focus on public transport  such as more Park'n'Ride options.

"Most people think public transport still isn't a viable option, and have no option but to rely on their private cars to get around."

Despite the public outcry, police thank motorists for their patience with yesterday's "calamity".

Inspector Trevor Beggs said police worked at full capacity to remove the obstruction so that the road could reopen as quickly as possible.

"Yesterday was a nightmare commute home for many of us, and police want to assure the motoring public that anyone found to be responsible for the crash and the resulting traffic disruption will be held fully to account," he said.

"The roading gridlock that followed led to thousands of motorists being inconvenienced and we would like to thank every person who calmly endured the delays for their patience."

The Waitemata Police Motorways team are investigating the incident and are reviewing CCTV footage and statements taken from members of the public who witnessed the crash as well as those directly involved.

Digger motorway crash cost Akl 'millions'

 NZTA says because the digger had to be pulled out from under the bridge before lifting it off the motorway, it took "precision and care".

The exact response timeframe is as follows:

NZTA's Auckland highway manager Brett Gliddon says the agency is currently installing an upgrade of the current Variable Messaging Signs across the Auckland motorway network, "to ensure the signs are even more difficult to miss".

Mr Gliddon says the Penrose bridge is 4.57m high and the legal minimum height requirement for bridges on the highway is 4.25m, so the bridge is well above that, and anything that does hit it would be illegally overheight.

There is a sensor which prompts a sign to come up some 288 metres before the bridge, warning the driver that their vehicle or load is overheight and that they need to pull over. This was functioning at the time, he says.

Mr Barnett says "logically there should be charges" pressed following the incident, but he expects it will happen again.

"I hope there's some lessons learnt by everybody."