The number of vehicles using the Tauranga Eastern Link is now 25 per cent higher than the NZ Transport Agency had predicted.

About 1.2 million trips have been made on the highway since it opened in August last year.

The predicted usage was 6000 vehicles a day, but the number of motorists using the Tauranga Eastern Link to date averages 7500 a day.

Usage peaked over the Christmas/New Year period with an average of 9500 vehicles a day - 58 per cent higher than the expected daily usage.


The busiest days were December 27, 28 and 30, with 10,164, 10,828 and 10,312 vehicles using the expressway respectively.

NZ Transport Agency's Bay of Plenty highway manager, Niclas Johansson said: "The TEL is one of the best roads in New Zealand.

"It's extremely safe and saves time, so it's not surprising that people are choosing to use it.

"We are excited by the high number of vehicles per day and expect numbers of travellers using the TEL to continue growing, especially with the predicted population boom expected in Papamoa."

Mr Johansson said it was great to receive positive feedback from users via email and phone calls.

That included an Auckland man, who called the Tauranga office last month to say he did not mind paying the toll because the highway was "simply gorgeous" and surely the "eighth wonder of the world", he said.

Since the expressway opened, police said they had dealt with at least five incidents of motorists travelling on the wrong side of the road " three of which nearly caused head-on collisions.

Mr Johansson said late last year the Transport Agency and police held a joint working party to explore ways to prevent people from entering the road at the wrong place.

A number of changes to try to lessen driver confusion had already been made, including installing "Wrong Way Go Back" signs, additional road marking and signs, he said. Other changes involved modifying the Mangatwawa interchange traffic lights, installing safe hit posts and temporary kerbing at Domain Rd/Tara Rd off-ramp, and removing vegetation at the Paengaroa roundabout.

Mr Johansson said more changes were planned for the early part of this year.

That included overhead signs at the Domain Rd exit heading east, directional signs at the roundabouts and further road marking including tourist arrows to show the direction of travel. Mr Johansson said all motorists must play their part in making the transport system as safe as possible for everyone.

"The Transport Agency and police ask people to drive with extra care and attention, and observe all signage to ensure everyone's safety," he said.

The total revenue collected from tolls on the new link would not be available until July.