They were meant to improve the flow of traffic. Instead, traffic signals installed at Barkes Corner - the intersection of State Highway 29A, Pyes Pa Rd, Cameron Rd and Marshall Rd - last September made things worse with a spate of crashes.
Transport officials responded by replacing the signals with red and amber lights in December. But how much has all this cost? The answer? More than was planned for. Figures provided under the Official Information Act reveal the project has suffered a budget blowout.
Plans to alleviate traffic congestion at one of Tauranga's busiest intersections has resulted in a budget blowout of more than $350,000.
Congestion at Barkes Corner, where State Highway 29A, Cameron Rd and Pyes Pa Rd meet, prompted NZ Transport Agency in September to introduce traffic lights in an effort to help traffic flow better.
However, after two days' operation, the lights - activated by congestion - were removed due to confusion from motorists resulting in at least three crashes. In December, the lights were replaced with red and amber-only lights, plus signage.
The anticipated total cost of the project had been $421,642.
Data obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times reveals the total cost of installing the lights was $778,111.
NZ Transport Agency system management senior manager Wayne Oldfield said the updated design resulted in an additional cost of $356,487.
"These works include installing a median island, dual lights as well as additional electronic infrastructure for the lights."
The original three-phase lanterns included in the total costs were returned to stock and were expected to be used in the wider network, he said.
The data also revealed the signals, which went live on December 12, have been activated a total of 405 hours as of April 17 - an average of 4.5 hours daily.
By comparison, similar lights installed at the Elizabeth St and Takitimu Drive roundabout, which went live on April 11, have been activated for eight hours as of April 17.
Letters: Simple left-hand turn all that's needed for Welcome Bay lane
Gridlock: More gold plated expressways not the answer: Phil Twyford
Data project: Use this interactive map to plan your daily commute
The cost of the Elizabeth St lights was yet to be finalised but was expected to cost $411,919, of which $312,755 would cover the cost of construction. The rest would go towards professional services and utility connections.
The lights for both intersections were presented as "low cost, low risk".
Tauranga City councillor Larry Baldock travels from Pyes Pa through the intersection most days and said he had barely noticed a difference since December.
Traffic on Pyes Pa Rd was regularly backed up to the local shops, about a kilometre away, he said.
"At that price, you wonder whether it was money well spent," he said.
"I wouldn't call it a success. It's half-baked, really."
Baldock said if there had to be signals at the roundabout, he would like to see some catering for other traffic flows also, such as a regular build up travelling from Greerton.
Hirepool's Lance Hansen was equally doubtful.
"There's still a lot of congestion. We are still getting the massive amount of traffic coming from Greerton."
Hansen said he felt the lights just held up Pyes Pa Rd traffic and Cameron Rd traffic to let state highway motorists through.
Capital Tractors operations manager Michelle Hedges said she lived two minutes away but sometimes travelling that distance could take 15 minutes. These days, it could take 10.
"It doesn't really feel like it's made a dramatic difference."
Hedges said the intersection was especially busy and there were often accidents, regardless of the lights. She also noted the regular back up of traffic on Pyes Pa Rd and Cameron Rd.
Capitol Tractors staff member Peter Haystead travelled on SH29A each day to get to work, and said the lights affecting him were practically redundant.
"If I'm first in line, where the lights are there, I can't see them. I've no idea what they're telling me to do because they're too high."
The Barkes Corner lights are understood to still be under a trial process for 12 to 18 months.
Tauranga City Council was asked how many complaints there had been since the lights were introduced and what impact there has been on local roads since. The council was also asked what, if anything, was planned to help alleviate traffic in the area, but was unable to provide a response before publication last night.
How do the signals work?
The traffic signals are activated by traffic volumes and queue detectors monitoring queues on Pyes Pa Rd in the morning peak period and State Highway 29A, from Tauriko, in the afternoon peak period. The queue detectors are located at 30m and 140m, and 197m and 765m respectively. Detectors identify stationary or very slow-moving vehicles which then activate the lights.
Source - NZTA