Plans to restrict access to a busy state highway intersection popular with "rat runners" will now go to the Te Puna community for consultation.
Western Bay of Plenty District Council and NZ Transport Agency have agreed to permanently close the SH2 right-turn entrance into Te Puna Station Rd, pending feedback from residents in the area. And it is about all local motorists can expect from the transport agency, for now.
NZ Transport Agency Bay of Plenty journey manager Nigel D'Ath and Aurecon Group's Ann Fosberry told elected members in chambers today two six-week trials revealed closing the right-turn bay near Wairoa Bridge reduced the Ōmokoroa to Tauranga commute by an average of 2.7 minutes.
"I guess when you are sitting stuck in traffic for 40 minutes, the difference might not seem a lot better but in terms of the volume of traffic, that's a significant saving in fuel and time," D'Ath said.
About 1000 vehicles an hour go through the intersection, which currently has a temporary closure of the right-turn into Te Puna Station Rd.
Mayor Garry Webber asked D'Ath and Fosberry why more could not be done to include improvements to the SH2 right-turn into Wairoa Rd or entrance into Clarke Rd.
D'Ath admitted the transport agency was limited in which projects it could currently work on.
"I agree this is a smaller project and isolated intersection but in terms of the lack of what projects that we are able to progress on, longer term, because at the moment due to funding problems then this is one way to helping people who live in that area to move more efficiently than they have been," D'Ath said.
Fosberry said the removal of the right-turn reduced the risk of crashes resulting in death or serious injury at the intersection. Despite this, she confessed there was a slight increase in the risk of nose-to-tail crashes.
However, crash data from 2013 to 2017 showed of all nose-to-tail crashes in that area, none resulted in injury, she said.
The suggestion of removing the right-turn bay received strong support from most elected members. However, chairman Don Thwaites said he timed his commute both with and without the current closure and did not experience any advantage. He was also critical of "rat runners" using Te Puna Station Rd to get ahead of SH2 traffic.
"SH2 is collapsing and domestic roads are getting hammered. That's the bottom line."
The removal could be made permanent in as little as one month, councillors were told.
Councillors instructed the transport agency to take the proposal to the Te Puna community for consultation.
Fix the Bloody Road campaigner Andrew Hollis was doubtful there would be much support.
Hollis said there were certainly transport issues of concern for the local community but the right-turn into Te Puna Station Rd was not necessarily one of them.
"Every time one of these band-aid fixes is done, it pushes us further away from an end result, that could be the best result, that is four-laning the highway."
Hollis said if there was going to be a SH2 right-turn removed in the area, it really should be the entry into Wairoa Rd "which was far more dangerous because it doesn't even have a turning bay".
Hollis was unconvinced the turn removal would make much difference and wanted more focus on bigger transport improvements involving that stretch of SH2.