A dedicated bus and carpool lane plus space for a dual cycleway is part of a new proposal for the four-laning of 15th Ave.

The changes mean the four lanes would not be for all traffic in the traditional way.

But not everyone is convinced it is a good idea.

The Tauranga City Council is proposing the changes over the next four to five years as part of the 15th Ave-Turret Rd project's second stage.


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It included one city centre-bound lane reserved for buses and carpooling, and extra space along one side of 15th Ave for a separated dual bike lane. There would also be improved walking facilities and traffic lights at key intersections on Fraser St.

Transportation manager Martin Parkes said the council intended to widen 15th Ave and Turret Rd but widening the road "in the traditional way" would not improve traffic flow.

Instead, Parkes said the council was likely to favour priority lanes for buses and car pooling rather than making the new lanes exclusively for people in cars.

Parkes said it was not as simple as making the road bigger and faster for people driving between Welcome Bay and the city.

"We also need to consider the thousands of people who are moving between the schools, medical centres and shopping centres on either side of 15th Avenue," he said.

"It is a complex situation where many people are moving in competing directions."

The council had been discussing options for the 15th Ave traffic congestion since 2015 when the New Zealand Transport Agency handed over the former state highway.

Parkes said the council was beginning to discuss ideas with the community and would consult the public in May-June this year.

City councillor Bill Grainger wanted to see the four-lanes built as soon as possible to reduce traffic congestion for commuters.

To combat traffic congestion, Grainger suggested a two-lane bridge that would run over the waterfront.

"That would mean there are two lanes coming into the city and two lanes going out of the city going along the waterfront with the centrepiece being a pohutukawa tree. That is what I would like to see."

Welcome Bay Community Centre manager Anna Larsen said it was a good idea to include a bus-only lane but doubted it would work.

"The public transport system is not adequate," Larsen said. "The system is not currently used enough to warrant that high level of investment."

But Larsen said offering a free bus service would encourage more people to use public transport.

"It must be cheaper for the Government to fund free buses than a road upgrade," she said.

Larsen said the best solution was a three-lane tidal flow system (a lane where traffic could move in either direction depending on time of day) because it would require the least infrastructure change and the council would not have to cut down the trees.

"When the traffic is really busy it is quiet because it is moving slowly, but if they free that up the traffic will become [louder]," she said.

"The people who drive through it don't realise it is part of someone else's living area."

Four-laning was not a long-term solution, Larsen said.

"All it does is it brings the traffic to a standstill somewhere else down the line."

Welcome Bay commuter David Vincent said he planned his travels into town around peak hours to avoid grid-locked traffic.

"I don't leave Welcome Bay until 8.50am and I am still copping a bit of it," he said.

Traffic on 15th Ave grinds to a halt most afternoon, but there are plans which could change that. Photo / File
Traffic on 15th Ave grinds to a halt most afternoon, but there are plans which could change that. Photo / File

Vincent said dedicating a lane to buses and carpooling was "better than nothing".

"There is never going to be a solution unless they widen the road."

Fifteenth Ave resident Ben Runciman said peak traffic hours were around school pick-up at 3pm-3.30pm and again around 5pm.

But Runciman said he used the side roads and other avenues to avoid peak-hour traffic and particularly the 15th Ave lights.

"I can sit there for 10 minutes if I am just on Fraser St, or for half an hour if I am coming down 15th [Ave]," he said. "Anything to navigate those lights."

Runciman said the entire highway needed to be made four lanes if it was going to ease traffic congestion and believed the city would struggle to adopt carpooling.

"I don't see Tauranga on the early adoptive side of that especially with an ageing population," he said.

Tauranga's Terry Leeming - aka Hori BOP - drives 15th Ave and Turret Rd every day as a bus driver and said the council needed to four-lane the former highway now.

"It takes half an hour to get from the Welcome Bay shops to the Hairini roundabout ... that is just ridiculous."

The proposal:
Stage 1 (2018/19)
- Some widening of 15th Ave from Grace Rd to Burrows St to help afternoon traffic clear the 15th/Fraser St intersection
- New traffic lights at 15th Ave/Burrows St intersection
- Off-road cycle facilities
- Some modifications to the Turret Rd slip road, and the Grace Rd/15th Ave intersection

Stage 2 (next 4 to 5 years)
- Four lanes on 15th Ave with one city centre-bound lane dedicated to buses and carpooling
- Improved biking and walking facilities
- Traffic lights at key intersections on Fraser St

Stage 3
Upgrades to Turret Rd and Hairini Bridge