John is a senior reporter at the Bay of Plenty Times

Study to assess future of Tauranga's road network

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QUEUES: Traffic on Turret Rd from Welcome Bay.PHOTO/FILE
QUEUES: Traffic on Turret Rd from Welcome Bay.PHOTO/FILE

A major transport study for Tauranga has been launched to make the most of the existing transport network before huge investments are needed to sort out the city's traffic bottlenecks.

The study will consider the future of the city's roading network, including the increasing volume of traffic on Hewletts Rd and pressure to bring forward the 2024 start date for the project to four-lane Turret Rd and 15th Ave.

Community concerns that the city was once again heading towards peak-time gridlock surfaced at a council meeting this week to make decisions on the 2016-17 Annual Plan.

Councillor Rick Curach asked whether roading authorities had looked at the downstream bottleneck on Hewletts Rd, once the Baypark to Bayfair link was built.

He warned that the Baypark to Bayfair project would not deliver any travel time advantages into the city because of upstream bottlenecks on Hewletts Rd.

Council transportation manager Martin Parkes responded that they were working on some solutions for the Hewletts Rd corridor such as how the bus lanes and traffic lights were used.

"We are not talking about a large investment in new infrastructure."

It would be more about how the corridor was used and how to make it more efficient, he said.

The year-long study involving the council, the New Zealand Transport Agency and other organisations aimed to develop network operating plans and business cases. The business cases would consider current issues and set out projects to address known issues over the next 30 years.

"The next 12 months are crucial," Mr Parkes said.

The council acknowledged concerns by submitter Jim Sherlock about the bottleneck caused by the two-lane Turret Rd bridge.

"Parts of the community are anxious to see the 15th Ave/Turret Rd corridor upgraded as soon as possible, particularly with the Maungatapu Underpass coming on line in mid-2018," he was told.

Councillor Bill Grainger acknowledged that the widening could not start until the Baypark to Bayfair link was finished in 2020. However, he said that the planning needed to start well before 2024 so that construction could begin as soon as the Baypark to Bayfair project finished.

He was told that completion of the study would put the council in a better position to judge options, including 15th Ave and Turret Rd, and it was possible the work could be brought forward.

Mr Parkes said transport agency subsidies on the project would depend on what came out of the business case. "If the NZTA sees benefits to the transport network then we would get a subsidy."

Welcome Bay resident Hori Leaming asked the council to consider widening 15th Ave down to Burrows St to provide more traffic stacking at the Fraser St intersection.

Mr Parkes said he wanted to see some traffic modelling done to prove or disprove the benefits.

Timeframe and cost of 15th Ave/Turret Rd widening:
-2024: $100,000
-2025: $2million
-2026: 57.6million
- Tauranga City Council

- Bay of Plenty Times

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