Auckland Northern Motorway

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State Highway 1 NZ.svg

Auckland Northern Motorway
Route information
Maintained by NZ Transport Agency
Length: 39 km (24 mi)
Existed: 30 May 1959 – present
Major junctions
North end: SH 1 near Puhoi
South end: SH 1 (Southern Motorway) at Auckland City Centre
Orewa, Silverdale, Albany, Takapuna, Northcote, Auckland City
Highway system
Looking west at the Northern Motorway from Forrest Hill. The Sunset Road overbridge and the Upper Harbour Highway interchange northbound offramp can be seen in the background on the far right. The Northern Busway can be seen on the near side of the motorway.
The Northern Motorway skirting the edge of the Waitemata Harbour on the northern approach to the Auckland Harbour Bridge. Central Auckland can be seen across the harbour.

The Auckland Northern Motorway (known locally as the Northern Motorway, and historically as the Auckland–Waiwera Motorway) in the Auckland Region of New Zealand links central Auckland City and Puhoi in the former Rodney District via the Hibiscus Coast and North Shore. It is part of State Highway 1.

It is 38 kilometres (24 mi) in length, with 15 junctions. Until the end of the 1980s, it was largely associated with the Auckland Harbour Bridge as a connection between central Auckland and the North Shore, but since 1994 it has been extended to Puhoi to become the primary route between the Auckland urban area, the Hibiscus Coast satellite towns, the northern Rodney district, and Northland. Between the 1959 opening of the motorway and 1984, tolls were collected on the Auckland Harbour Bridge, and since 2009 tolls have been collected on the Northern Gateway Toll Road, the northernmost section of the motorway, bypassing the Hibiscus Coast.

The Northern Motorway sees heavy traffic: the section between Esmonde Road and Cook Street has an annual average daily traffic (AADT) count of over 100,000 vehicles per day, with around 155,000 vehicles per day crossing the Harbour Bridge.[1]


The Northern Motorway starts near Puhoi, in the former Rodney District. It leaves the two-lane coastal road between Puhoi and Waiwera on the northern side of Johnstone's Hill, then tunnels under the hill in 340-metre long twin tunnels.

The initial 7 km section is an automated-toll road, also known as the Northern Gateway Toll Road. The electronic toll-registering gantry is at the southern end. At the first junction, west of Orewa, the motorway becomes toll free.

The next 17 km to Albany runs through a mainly rural environment. An interchange at Silverdale provides access to the Hibiscus Coast and the Whangaparaoa Peninsula, and access to the alternative toll-free route north via Urban Route 31 (formerly State Highway 17). The Orewa interchange can also be used, but requires driving through local residential areas. South of the junction at Dairy Flat is the motorway's only service centre, which serves northbound traffic, and is the toll cash-payment point for northbound traffic.

The motorway then descends steeply into the northern suburbs of the former North Shore City, the northern of Auckland's four former cities. Crawler lanes are provided for heavy vehicles between Oteha Valley Road and Greville Road. The Greville Road interchange was until 1999 the northern terminus, with the current northbound entrance and exit ramps following the old formation down to the roundabout intersection with Albany Highway.

The motorway proceeds south-east through the suburbs of the North Shore, with interchanges at Upper Harbour Highway, Tristram Avenue, Northcote Road and Esmonde Road allowing access to the suburbs. The Upper Harbour Highway interchange is the northern terminus of the incomplete Western Ring Route, which will provide an alternative north–south motorway route around Auckland.

At Esmonde Road, the motorway turns south-west to follow the northern shore of the Waitemata Harbour to Northcote Point, where it crosses the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The bridge has a contraflow system on it which allows five lanes southbound and three northbound during morning rush hour, five lanes northbound and three southbound during evening rush hour, and four lanes each way at other times. The lanes are separated by a moveable median barrier.

Coming off the bridge, the road turns sharply to head eastwards towards the Auckland city centre. An interchange with Fanshawe Street allows access to the northern end of the city centre, and also allows lanes to be dropped ahead of the narrow four-lane Victoria Park Viaduct. The motorway then turns south-east across the Victoria Park Viaduct, and travels down the western side of the city centre, with an exit at Cook Street for the southern end of the city centre.

The motorway emerges at the top of the Central Motorway Junction ("Spaghetti Junction") and terminates at the Northwestern Motorway, becoming the Southern Motorway.


Tolls for the Northern Gateway Toll Road are collected electronically, using an automated toll plaza just north of the Grand Drive interchange. The automated toll plaza uses automatic number plate recognition to identify the vehicle: the number plate is optically read and details checked against the New Zealand Transport Agency's (NZTA) database, any pre-payment made or account open for that particular vehicle. Additional sensors detect the size of the vehicle, to help prevent misreads of registration plates and to notice plate swaps between cars and trucks. If the computer system needs assistance in recognising plates or for any other reason, data is sent to the NZTA office in Palmerston North for human analysis.[2]

Vehicles can pay up to 180 days before travel and up to five days after, by account, by telephone, online or at participating service stations.[3] If the toll is not paid within five days a payment notice for the toll plus a $4.90 administration fee is sent to the registered owner of the vehicle. If payment is still not received, a $40 toll infringement fine is issued, and is treated the same way as regular traffic infringement.[2]

At from 29 November 2015 tolls for a single one-way trip are:[4]

Vehicle Toll
Cars, motorcycles, light commercial vehicles (≤3.5 tonne) $2.30
Heavy commercial vehicles (>3.5 tonne) $4.70
Caravans/trailers No extra charge

From its opening to 31 May 2010, motorcycles travelled free of charge.

Each toll costs 78 cents to collect, as of May 2010.[5]


The Northern Motorway between the Auckland Harbour Bridge and the then Fanshawe Street terminus in May 1960. Photo by Denis Wilford.

The first section of the Northern Motorway opened on 30 May 1959, in conjunction with the opening of the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The first section totalled 7.4 km, stretching from Northcote Road to Fanshawe Street. On its opening day, 51,000 vehicles crossed the Harbour Bridge, with southbound traffic backing up for unprecedented 10 km north of the toll plaza (near the present Stafford Street exit) with vehicles wishing to cross the bridge for the first time.[6] Initially, the Auckland Harbour Bridge Authority owned and operated the motorway between Fanshawe Street and the toll plaza, while the National Roads Board (the predecessor to the New Zealand Transport Agency) operated the remainder of the motorway from the toll plaza to Northcote Road.

Initially, the motorway was limited access, with all ramps facing towards the Harbour Bridge. Tolls for the Harbour Bridge were collected manually, with cars initially paying 2/6 (two shillings and sixpence) to cross the bridge (equivalent to about $5.50 in 2017 dollars).[7]

In 1962, the Victoria Park Viaduct opened, and the motorway was extended south from Fanshawe Street, over the viaduct, to Cook Street/Wellington Street. In 1969, the motorway was extended northwards from Northcote Road to Tristram Avenue, and the Auckland Harbour Bridge's clip-on lanes opened, widening the bridge from four lanes to eight lanes.

In 1978, the motorway was extended south to meet the Southern Motorway at Nelson Street/Hobson Street. This allowed motorway traffic a clear run from Tristram Avenue to St Stephens, on the northern side of the Bombay Hills.

In 1979, the Northern Motorway was extended northward to Sunset Road, near the present Upper Harbour Highway interchange. The motorway ended at a set of traffic lights on the top of a hill, giving limited visibility to motorway traffic. In 1984 a two-lane expressway opened, continuing from Sunset Road to Greville Road and on towards Albany Highway Albany Village. On 30 March 1984, the last tolls were collected for the Harbour Bridge, making the entire Northern Motorway free of charge from 31 March 1984.[8]

In the 1980s, tidal flow was introduced on the Auckland Harbour Bridge to assist with peak flows on the Northern Motorway between the North Shore and central Auckland. The two central lanes were made reversible to allow a 5+3 split favouring the peak direction (southbound in the morning, northbound in the evening) during peak hours, and 4+4 off-peak. The lanes were controlled by overhead signals, which some motorists on the Motorway ignored and were killed when they collided head-on with oncoming traffic - between 1 January 1989 and 27 November 1989, some five people died as a result of collisions involving the so-called "suicide lanes".[9] In 1990, a moveable barrier was installed to separate the traffic flows.

The expressway between Sunset Road and Greville Road was upgraded and became a part of the Northern Motorway in 1994. A new interchange was created at Upper Harbour Highway and Constellation Drive to replace the Sunset Road intersection.[8]

The late 1990s saw the construction of the first stages of the Albany to Puhoi Realignment (ALPURT) – a 27 km extension of the Northern Motorway, bypassing Albany Hill and the Hibiscus Coast. The first section, ALPURT A, opened between Greville Road and Silverdale on 20 December 1999. At 13 km in length, it was the longest section of motorway to open at once in New Zealand. At the same time, ALPURT B1, a two-lane expressway between Silverdale and the back of Orewa opened.[8]

In 2006, an upgrade to the Central Motorway Junction saw ramps open between the Northern Motorway and the Northwestern Motorway, and the Northern Motorway and Grafton Gully. Beforehand, traffic travelling from the Northern Motorway to the Northwestern Motorway or Grafton Gully had to exit at Cook Street and travel through local city streets to connect to Waitakere or the Port of Auckland.

ALPURT B2, the Northern Gateway Toll Road, opened on 25 January 2009 between Orewa and Puhoi. The Northern Gateway Toll Road was the first automated toll road in New Zealand, and the first under the authority of the NZ Transport Agency. At the same time, ALPURT B1 was upgraded to motorway standard to complete the Northern Motorway from central Auckland to Puhoi.[8]

The Victoria Park Tunnel project was completed in early 2012 having been opened earlier in the year. Three northbound lanes were constructed in a cut-and-cover tunnel next to the existing four-lane viaduct. The viaduct, previously two lanes in each direction, was reconfigured to two pairs of southbound lanes; one pair accessing the Cook Street off-ramp and Port and Northwestern Motorway connections, the other connecting to the Southern Motorway. In addition to the tunnel a movable median barrier on the northbound section between the tunnel and the Harbour Bridge allows five northbound lanes to be used in peak traffic times. The southbound section was also widened to five lanes, this being permanent.[10]

Northern Busway[edit]

Although not technically part of the Northern Motorway, the Northern Busway is closely associated with the motorway. The first section of the 6.2 km bus rapid transit lanes opened in January 2008, and runs along the eastern side of the motorway between Constellation Busway Station (near the Constellation Drive interchange) and Akoranga Busway Station (near the Esmonde Road interchange). An additional 2.5 km southbound bus lane, opened in 2009, runs from Akoranga station to the Harbour Bridge approaches at the Onewa Road interchange. Dedicated ramps connect the busway with the Northern Motorway at Constellation Drive and at Albany Busway Station near the Oteha Valley Road interchange.



Several other major projects are proposed for the Northern Motorway in the future. From south to north they are:-

  • Second Harbour Crossing - A second crossing over the Waitemata Harbour between the Esmonde Road interchange and the Central Motorway Junction is under investigation to supplement or completely replace the existing Auckland Harbour Bridge. The currently preferred alignment is from the Onewa Road interchange straight across the harbour to the Western Reclamation, then to the existing motorway near the Cook Street Interchange. The preferred crossing is quadruple tunnels, with two tunnels for general traffic and two for public transport, with pedestrians and cyclists using the existing bridge, but a bridge option in also under consideration. If the second crossing proceeds to construction stage, the project is estimated to cost up to NZ$4 billion.[11] The National Government announced in 2013 for support for a tunnel across the harbour. Construction is estimated to begin between 2025 and 2030.[12]
  • SH1-SH18 Motorway Interchange - Currently the Upper Harbour Motorway (State Highway 18) and the planned Western Ring Route connect with the Northern Motorway at the Constellation Interchange. As a full diamond configuration interchange controlled by traffic lights, this will be the only section of the Upper Harbour Motorway after 2012, and eventually the Western Ring Route, that is not to a motorway standard. The New Zealand Transport Agency is currently looking at upgrading this interchange, with investigation completed by 2010-2011.[13]
  • Penlink - A planned link road between SH1 and the Whangaparaoa Peninsula. This road would connect with the Northern Motorway at a new interchange near Redvale.[14] This road was originally planned as a toll road by the Rodney District Council. In 2008 the New Zealand Government announced that Penlink would be fully funded by a new regional fuel tax. However, in 2009 this decision was reversed, making the project currently uncertain.[15]
  • Pūhoi to Wellsford - A 34 km four-lane motorway or expressway from the current terminus of the Northern Motorway at Pūhoi to north to Wellsford. Much of the route would require a substantial realignment of the present SH 1, and would bypass Warkworth to the west. This project is currently at the investigation stage, and could be progressed in stages. Part or all of this road may be tolled. The project is one of the seven "Roads of National Significance" announced by the Government in March 2009.[16] The Pūhoi-Wellsford route has proven to be particularly controversial, with critics, including financial commentators and public transport advocates, labelling it the "Holiday Highway" and pointing to a poor benefit-cost ratio.[17][18] The contract for the section from Pūhoi to Warkworth was awarded in November 2016 under a public-private partnership (the second for a state highway after the Transmission Gully Motorway) with a completion date set for 2022.[19]


The Northern Motorway northbound lanes, just south of the Esmonde Road interchange.
Territorial authority and local board(s)[20] Location km[1] # Destinations Notes
AucklandRodney Board Puhoi 388 State Highway 1 NZ.svg SH 1 NorthWarkworth, Whangarei Northern Motorway ends
Hibiscus Coast Highway — Auckland (via Waiwera) Southbound exit and northbound entrance
Non-motorway traffic route and toll-free route south
AucklandRodney/Hibiscus and Bays Boards Orewa Automated toll point
394 Grand Drive — Orewa
Millwater 396 Wainui Road/Millwater Parkway — Millwater Opened May 2015[21]
Silverdale 398.0 398 Route 31 Hibiscus Coast Highway — Silverdale Toll-free route north
36°37′31″S 174°39′46″E / 36.625172°S 174.662876°E / -36.625172; 174.662876 (Silverdale Interchange, Auckland Northern Motorway)
Dairy Flat 401.9 AB-Tank.svgAB-Rast.svg Dairy Flat Service Centre 36°39′34″S 174°40′03″E / 36.659434°S 174.667511°E / -36.659434; 174.667511 (Dairy Flat Service Centre, Auckland Northern Motorway)
Auckland — Upper Harbour Board Albany North 409.9 410 Route 29 Oteha Valley Road — North Harbour Stadium, Albany
Rosedale 411.8 412 Route 25 Greville Road/Albany Expressway — Browns Bay, Massey University, Albany 36°44′09″S 174°43′05″E / 36.735961°S 174.718087°E / -36.735961; 174.718087 (Greville Road Interchange, Auckland Northern Motorway)
Meadowood 414.0 414 State Highway 18 NZ.svg SH 18 Upper Harbour Highway — Greenhithe, Waitakere, Mairangi Bay 36°45′03″S 174°43′34″E / 36.750800°S 174.726000°E / -36.750800; 174.726000 (Upper Harbour Highway Interchange, Auckland Northern Motorway)
AucklandKaipatiki/Devonport-Takapuna Ward Forrest Hill 416.8 417 Route 21 Tristram Ave — Wairau Park, Wairau Valley, Glenfield, Forrest Hill
Northcote 418.8 419 Northcote Road — Northcote, North Shore Hospital, Milford
Akoranga 420.3 420 Route 26 Esmonde Road — Takapuna, Devonport, AUT
Auckland — Kaipatiki Board Northcote 422.0 421 Route 27 Onewa Road — Northcote, Birkenhead
422.9 422 Stafford Road Northbound exit only
Northcote Point 423.2 AB-Brücke.svg Auckland Harbour Bridge over Waitemata Harbour 36°49′50″S 174°44′26″E / 36.830447°S 174.740553°E / -36.830447; 174.740553 (Auckland Harbour Bridge)
AucklandWaitemata Board
St Mary's Bay 425.0 423 Shelly Beach Road — Ponsonby, Herne Bay Southbound exit and northbound entrance
Auckland CBD 426.2 424A Route 6 Fanshawe Street — City Centre (North) Southbound exit and northbound entrance
426.6 AB-Brücke.svg Victoria Park Viaduct 36°50′49″S 174°45′11″E / 36.847045°S 174.753095°E / -36.847045; 174.753095 (Victoria Park Viaduct)
427.0 424B Cook Street — City Centre (South) Southbound exit and northbound entrance (via Wellington Street)
427.2 424C State Highway 16 NZ.svg SH 16 Northwest Motorway east — Port Southbound exit and northbound entrance
424D State Highway 16 NZ.svg SH 16 Northwest Motorway west — Waitakere, Helensville Southbound exit and northbound entrance
427.0[3] State Highway 1 NZ.svg SH 1 Southern Motorway south — Manukau, Hamilton Northern Motorway ends
  • ^ distance rounds down to 427 at the beginning of the Southern Motorway.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b "State Highway Traffic Volumes - Data Booklet 2005-2009 - New Zealand Transport Agency" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  2. ^ a b "How electronic tolling works - New Zealand Transport Agency". Archived from the original on 2 June 2010. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  3. ^ "Pay as you go". NZTA. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  4. ^ "Tolls and fees". NZTA. Retrieved 2016-01-26. 
  5. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (1 June 2010). "Toll-dodger faces $26,500 in fines". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 June 2010. 
  6. ^ "Auckland harbour bridge opening 1959 - YouTube video". Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  7. ^ "New Zealand Inflation Calculator - Reserve Bank of New Zealand". Reserve Bank of New Zealand. Retrieved 25 July 2017. 
  8. ^ a b c d "Auckland Motorways 2008" (PDF). New Zealand Transport Agency. Retrieved 2010-01-27. 
  9. ^ "First 3 News bulletin - 27 November 1989". 3 News. 27 November 1989. Archived from the original on 10 September 2012. Retrieved 2010-07-11. 
  10. ^ "NZTA - Victoria Park Tunnel". 20 November 2012. 
  11. ^ "Archived copy". Archived from the original on 25 February 2009. Retrieved 2009-04-08.  Auckland Motorways website
  12. ^ Isaac Davison (28 June 2013). "Government reveals shape of Auckland's transport future". New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 12 September 2016. 
  13. ^ [1] Transit New Zealand - Upper Harbour Motorway website, accessed 7 April 2009
  14. ^ [2] Rodney District Council Website
  15. ^ Caralise Moore & Mike Bishara (12 March 2009). "Penlink under a cloud". Rodney Times via Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  16. ^ Dearnaley, Mathew (21 August 2008). "Cash approved for northern bottlenecks". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 17 September 2011. 
  17. ^ Oram, Rod (21 November 2010). "Going down the wrong road". Sunday Star Times (via Retrieved 26 January 2012. 
  18. ^ Better Transport
  19. ^ "PPP contract awarded for Pūhoi to Warkworth motorway project". NZ Transport Agency. 3 November 2016. Retrieved 6 November 2016. 
  20. ^ "Auckland Governance Arrangements: Maps relating to Determinations of Wards, Local Boards and Boundaries for Auckland" (PDF). Local Government Commission. March 2010. Retrieved 2010-07-10. 
  21. ^ Gibson, Anne (11 May 2015). "New motorway interchange will ease access for 10,000 Millwater residents". The New Zealand Herald. Retrieved 1 June 2015.