A Tauranga city councillor has threatened to storm out of a meeting because of frustration over a controversial road closure.

Tauranga City Council's Projects, Services and Operations Committee met today to discuss the future of Welcome Bay Lane, which was closed in September after being deemed too dangerous for cyclists.

Councillors heard from independent consultants Aurecon, which told elected members the slip road was too dangerous to reopen as is, despite signage and orange bollards.

Read more: Fears someone will die at 'concerning' Tauranga cycleway


Aurecon's Melanie Muirson with Stantec consultant Mike Smith said the best option was not to reopen the road at all but recommended an option, which involved constructing a solid island ahead of the entrance to force turning traffic to slow. The turn would be made so tight, buses and trucks would not be allowed to enter.

The option also involved installing a large speed hump on Welcome Bay Lane ahead of a point where cyclists would give way to motorists and continue on existing gravel paths up to the Hammond St traffic lights. Cyclists could also use the existing cycle lane and all cyclists would be expected to share the main pathway at the lights and crossing on the signal, as pedestrians do.

This image shows the recommendations to make Welcome Bay Lane safer for all road users. Image / supplied
This image shows the recommendations to make Welcome Bay Lane safer for all road users. Image / supplied

Muirson said the slowing down of traffic was imperative, as a cyclist hit by a vehicle travelling at 50km/h had an 85 per cent chance of being killed. By comparison, a cyclist hit by a vehicle travelling 30km/h had a 10 per cent chance of dying.

Smith said he visited the site yesterday and was "pretty shocked" at how dangerous the area was for road users, particularly cyclists approaching the lights.

"It's an indictment of the site that cyclists ... As soon as they hit Welcome Bay Lane, they continue to look over their shoulder for the vehicle that was going to head up behind them and cut them off. I was quite surprised.

"We saw a school bus run a red light, saw a truck run a red light. We saw cars run red and amber lights and block the intersection."

The option also included installing a give way sign at the western end of Welcome Bay Lane to prevent collisions with Harini-bound traffic.

Smith said while the works would make it safer for vulnerable road users, it would not necessarily improve congestion.

Welcome Bay Lane was closed in September and hasn't reopened. But that's about to change. Photo / file
Welcome Bay Lane was closed in September and hasn't reopened. But that's about to change. Photo / file

The council voted unanimously to accept the recommendation and work to get some funding from the NZ Transport Agency.

Councillor Bill Grainger expressed deep frustration at the council being left to fix the situation, which arose following the creation of the NZTA-led Maungatapu Underpass.

"It was an NZTA botch up, not ratepayers. They should pay," Grainger said, throwing a booklet of community complaints on the table.

"I'm talking for our community out there, they deserve far better. I'm at my wits' end. [I might as well] opt out of here, that's how this makes me feel."

Cr Rick Curach echoed Grainger's frustration, saying he felt there were probably better options that would also help alleviate congestion. Despite this, he voted in favour of what was proposed, "reluctantly".

Costs of the works will be known following further scoping and safety audits. The council was told it would be at least another four-and-a-half months before completion.


What's the issue?
Welcome Bay Lane was closed unexpectedly on September 28 after cyclists raised safety concerns over how the road intersected with the cycleway. The cordon was expected to be in place for three months, but nearly six months on it remains closed. An independent report into the transport agency-led Maungatapu Underpass project - prompted after the Bay of Plenty Times' coverage - found 25 safety issues, including the Welcome Bay Rd cycleway, which cuts across the entrance to Welcome Bay Lane. The lane acted as an easy slip road for traffic travelling 60km/h towards Hairini, Mount Maunganui, Greerton and Ohauiti. That traffic is now funnelled into a controlled intersection at Hammond St, where it waits to turn left.