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Tauranga traffic flow higher by the year

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Tauranga Harbour Bridge traffic during the rush-hour peak. Photo / George Novak.
Tauranga Harbour Bridge traffic during the rush-hour peak. Photo / George Novak.

Traffic flows in Tauranga have increased almost 8 per cent in a year with one of the busiest intersections seeing an increase in traffic of more than 17 per cent since 2013.

An economic report commissioned by Priority One found city traffic flows rose 7.9 per cent in the 12 months from March last year. This compared to an increase of 7.2 per cent in the wider Bay of Plenty and 4.2 per cent nationally.

Traffic figures from Tauranga City Council and the New Zealand Transport Agency showed double-digit increases at most of the city's major intersections between May 2013 and May this year, with Mount Maunganui spots seeing the largest surge.

The number of vehicles travelling through the Hewletts Rd and Totara St intersection over a week in May 2013 compared to the same time period this year increased by 13.2 per cent.

Traffic travelling through the intersection of Hewletts Rd and Jean Batten Drive increased by 12.3 per cent.

Most intersections in Tauranga also experienced increased traffic with a 7.2 per cent rise at the Fraser St and 15th Ave intersection.

Separate figures from NZTA showed the Bayfair roundabout, at the intersection of Girven Rd, Maunganui Rd and Matapihi Rd, had an annual average daily traffic increase of 17.9 per cent over the past three years, up from 28,000 vehicles in 2013 to 33,000 this year.

Head of Western Bay of Plenty road policing Senior Sergeant Ian Campion said traffic snarl-ups were impacting emergency services and testing the patience of drivers.

"It's fair to say that given the increase in traffic volumes ... it does take police a little longer when responding to calls, depending on the network," he said.

"The other thing we are noticing is an increase in impatience by drivers and I can name a number of intersections that that applies to. The Bayfair roundabout is one - so are the State Highway 29 and Poike Rd and State Highway 29 and Oropi roundabouts - where drivers are resorting to using incorrect lanes because they don't want to wait," he said.

Mr Campion said impatient drivers often made hasty decisions which sometimes resulted in crashes or near misses.

However, he said he had seen a huge shift in the consideration around peak-hour traffic, "with drivers regularly letting in people from side roads, and our merging behaviour is much, much better".

The intersection closest to Tauranga's central business district was the only one to record a drop in traffic.

The Cameron Rd and Elizabeth St junction had a 5.8 per cent reduction in traffic.

Council transportation manager Martin Parkes said this was likely a result of heavy congestion, particularly in the evening peak.

"We are aware that a considerable number of motorists are avoiding the intersection due to the length of time it takes to gain access to Takitimu Drive from Elizabeth St," Mr Parkes said.

"In a fast-growing city like Tauranga, expectations of a 24/7 free-flowing road network are no longer realistic, particularly in the morning and evening peaks."

Mr Parkes said the council and NZTA had modelled expected future traffic to determine when and where investment was needed.

"We've been planning for traffic growth in certain parts of the city for some time. A number of significant infrastructure projects have been identified in our Long Term Plan; this includes the construction of Te Okuroa Drive, the upgrading of Tara Rd, the Grenada St link, and the upgrading of Kennedy Rd to name but a few."

Tauranga Mayor Stuart Crosby said the council was also working with the Bay of Plenty Regional Council on bus services.

- Additional reporting Carmen Hall

Horror tales of Tauranga's life in slow lane

Maungatapu resident David Hill says there's no such thing as rush hour anymore, as increased traffic creates a steady stream of congestion. Photo / George Novak
Maungatapu resident David Hill says there's no such thing as rush hour anymore, as increased traffic creates a steady stream of congestion. Photo / George Novak

Tauranga traffic has increased so much that a Welcome Bay woman's daily commute to work now takes three times longer than it did a year ago and a Maungatapu man takes 13 minutes to travel less than a kilometre.

Maungatapu resident David Hill said peak times for congestion had now become a steady stream throughout the day.

"The difficulty is there are no lights at Maungatapu roundabout and the increase means there is never a break in traffic. It's not just rush hour. There's just a constant stream of traffic now.

"I actually timed it once and it took me 13 minutes. I'm 0.9km from the roundabout."

Mr Hill said the Turret Rd bridge was a significant problem because it never cleared and he believed the underpass currently under construction would not make much difference.

Welcome Bay resident Jordyn Ramsay had been travelling to Mount Maunganui for work every weekday for a year - in that time her commute went from 15 minutes to 45 minutes.

"There wasn't generally traffic over the past year," Ms Ramsay said.

"Now, you get caught in Welcome Bay Rd, the highway, Baypark sometimes and then Bayfair as well. Then after work you're heading back and they are doing the overpass for Maungatapu and if there's a truck, people slow down to let them in and wait. So it's really these spots. It's always congested.

"Now we have to leave at 7am, sometimes 6.50am, and sometimes I'm still getting there late," she said.

Katikati resident Daniel Roggeveen took about 90 minutes to get to work at Mount Maunganui. "A year ago, it was a 45-minute drive."

Mr Roggeveen said congestion at Te Puna Station Rd was an "absolute bloody nightmare" and a "huge choke point".

Mr Roggeveen said he'd like to see traffic lights installed.

- Bay of Plenty Times

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