Matthew Martin is a senior reporter at the Rotorua Daily Post

Outrage over $280K intersection upgrade budget

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District councillor Raj Kumar wants the council to look at other options for an upgrade of the Springfield and Otonga road intersection.
District councillor Raj Kumar wants the council to look at other options for an upgrade of the Springfield and Otonga road intersection.

A Rotorua district councillor says a $280,000 budget to upgrade a suburban Rotorua intersection is "obscene" and other options should be looked at before the money is spent.

Rotorua Lakes Council is in the planning stages of upgrading the intersection at the corner of Otonga and Springfield roads in Springfield.

Plans include an option to install traffic lights with council officials saying there had been two cycling crashes and seven car crashes at the intersection in the past six years.

Council staff said they were also responding to requests around safety for students at nearby Otonga Road Primary School.

Councillor Raj Kumar owns the Springfield Superette, which is on the intersection.

He told the Rotorua Daily Post he did not think traffic lights in a suburban area were necessary and there was no way to tell if they would work.

"It will make it a nightmare for people using that block and the cost is outrageous, there has to be a better way to do this without spending more than quarter of a million dollars."

However, Otonga Road Primary School principal Linda Woon said no price could be put on a child's life and the intersection had to be made safer.

Mr Kumar suggested making Otonga Rd a one-way road from the roundabout to McDowell St between the hours of 7am and 9am and 2pm to 4pm.

"If all the traffic was travelling one way it would ease that congestion.

"Why, for just five days a week at two times a day do we have to go ahead and put lights in?

"There has to be a much more cost-effective and practical way to manage the problem."

He said he would take his concerns to the next committee meeting of the council.

"If the problem is speeding, then we can use judder bars and more signage to slow people down - simple, cost-effective solutions - there's no need for a large, expensive solution and all I'm saying is we need to be practical."

But Ms Woon said lights at the intersection would be a lot safer and she had been speaking to the council about the problem.

"For us it's all about health and safety for our children who are crossing that intersection.

"We already have a lot of congestion and I don't think the lights would make that any worse.

"It's a very short period of time every morning and every afternoon, for about 10 to 15 minutes when it's very busy."

She said while there had been no accidents involving pupils from the school since she had been principal, but there had been a number of near misses.

"No one has been hurt, but do we have to wait until that happens?"

She said she did not think a temporary one-way system would work as it would be too confusing if it operated only at certain times of the day.

"But what price do you put on a child's life? I don't care if it costs $10,000, $30,000 or $100,000 - it's worth it to save a child's life."

She said modern traffic light technology was "pretty clever" and would result in better traffic flows as well as add to safety around the intersection.

Another issue was the fact that about 65 per cent of the school's maximum roll of 600 students did not live in the surrounding area and most of them were dropped off and picked up by their parents.

The council's Transport and Waste Solutions director, Stavros Michael, said no plan had been finalised and the council was considering various options, including installing traffic signals or improving the existing roundabout to make the area safer.

"While we are considering improvement options, we have already started constructing the council's urban network Cy-way, on Springfield Rd, which is a shared cyclist and pedestrian path that enables children to get to school safe.

"Also as part of our work, we have discussed options with councillor Kumar, who suggested a one-way street option."

But, Mr Michael said the idea could further complicate traffic movement through the neighbourhood.

He said the $280,000 project budget was a maximum and an estimate of how much it would cost to install fully operational traffic lights.

"However, the council may not use the entire budget as it is also considering alternative options."

Those options were to install pedestrian-operated lights, which allowed traffic to flow freely when a pedestrian pushes the traffic light button to cross the road, or modifying the roundabout to make it safer.

He said he expected the work to be completed by the end of June next year.

- Rotorua Daily Post

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