Traffic lights will soon be installed at two of Tauranga's busiest rush hour "crunch points".

The NZ Transport Agency has confirmed it will install lights at the roundabouts at Barkes Corner and the intersection of Elizabeth St and Takitimu Dr.

Both Western Bay and Tauranga's mayors, however, have said the lights should be an interim measure and not a means of delaying the major construction projects needed to catch the city's transport network up to its growth.

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The agency's Bay of Plenty transport system manager, Rob Campbell, said the lights would be "queue activated" - a system called roundabout metering.

It was designed for roundabouts where one road was busier than the others leading into the intersection, dominating the flow into the roundabout and causing delays on the other roads.

Elizabeth St and Takitimu Drive roundabout. Photo/George Novak
Elizabeth St and Takitimu Drive roundabout. Photo/George Novak

"The traffic lights are installed at least 25m away from the roundabout intersection, and manage the flow of traffic entering the roundabout," Campbell said.

Unlike the ramp metering lights used on many of Auckland's motorway on-ramps, the roundabout traffic lights will be on 24/7.

"Most of the time the traffic lights will be green, except when high traffic queues activate the metering, then they will turn red for a short period to hold the vehicles."

Campbell said the lights would improve the flow around the roundabouts for all drivers, not just the ones on the busiest roads.

"Standard give-way rules will still apply when entering the roundabouts."

Lights will be installed on two of the five legs feeding into Barkes Corner - the Pyes Pa Rd and Tauriko-bound approaches of State Highway 29A.


At the State Highway 2 (Takitimu Dr) roundabout with Elizabeth St, the lights will be installed on the highway's northbound approach to the roundabout.

The installation will start this month, with the agency aiming to have the lights operational later this year.

Campbell said the decision to use roundabout metering came after several workshops with Tauranga City Council in which a range of options were considered.

Garry Webber, mayor of Western Bay of Plenty District Council which has its offices at Barkes Corner, said he hoped the lights would be an interim measure.

He said Barkes Corner was a "crunch point" for city and industrial zone-bound traffic feeding in from growing suburbs on all sides, including The Lakes, Bethlehem, Ōmokoroa and Katikati in the west and Welcome Bay and Papamoa to the east.

The agency needed to turn its attention to projects that would divert some of that traffic away from the intersections, such as the Tauranga Northern Link, State Highway 2 at The Lakes and the Tauranga ring road, he said.

"NZTA has not faced up to the big projects."

Tauranga mayor Greg Brownless backed up Webber's view, saying he supported the lights on the proviso they did not become a long-term solution at the expense of bigger infrastructure projects.

"Let's hope in the meantime that it does make a difference."