Transport officials are considering adding a tidal flow lane to the two-lane Bayfair flyover.
This week the NZ Transport Agency's Mark Hasley presented the third lane proposal to Tauranga City Council as an option to help alleviate the city's increasing congestion.
The direction of a tidal flow lane can be changed to accommodate peak traffic. On the flyover, it would be northbound in the morning peak to help thin out the hoards of commuters from Pāpāmoa and Mount Maunganui heading towards the CBD.
In the afternoon it would be southbound, as those same commuters headed home.
The lane could be squeezed into the centre of the flyover but would be too narrow for buses, Hasley said.
The proposal was part of an update on the $120 million Baypark to Bayfair (B2B) project, which is expected to be finished by mid-2021.
Hasley also said the council could consider including dedicated priority lanes for public transport within the project's already approved infrastructure.
Hasley said electronic signals would be installed above each lane to indicate what the lane was being used for, similar to those on Auckland's Harbour Bridge.
"This is about making better use of our existing transport corridor footprint, looking at our opportunities that influence driver's behaviour."
Councillor Leanne Brown said no bus routes from Pāpāmoa used Maunganui Rd between Te Maunga and Bayfair but Hasley said the routes could be changed to make use of priority lanes.
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Transport lobby group Greater Tauranga was enthusiastic about priority bus lanes.
Spokeswoman Heidi Hughes said they would enable buses to flow through to the Hewletts Rd bus lane without getting caught in congestion.
The transport agency also confirmed this week that plans for a Maunganui Rd pedestrian and cyclist underpass had been approved.
There was no underpass in the original design, but the community petitioned and the agency announced in November it would add one at a cost of about $13m.
Documents obtained by the Bay of Plenty Times show the project is on budget and about 35 per cent complete.
Some 55 people have worked on the project since construction began in November 2015.
Of those, 16 people have left, including five project leaders and three engineers.
Pāpāmoa commuters welcome time-savers
If Andrew Johnson had his way, he'd catch the bus every day.
But on the days he needs to be at work early, he drives.
The morning journey from Pāpāmoa East to Cameron Rd on the 7am bus used to take more than an hour.
"But they take a few backstreet short cuts now, so I usually get to town just before 8am," he said.
He then walks about 20 minutes from Willow St to work.
Johnson said he'd gladly catch the bus more often if there were faster trips into the city - potentially made possible with priority lanes.
"More bus lanes would be fantastic," he said. "The best bit is getting to Hewletts Rd and scooting past all the traffic while on the bus lane."
Pāpāmoa to Cameron Rd car commuter Heather Hosking said she would love to switch to the bus and avoid parking in town.
The journey times, routes and schedules, however, did not add up yet.
She said her morning commute was about 55 minutes and had only gotten longer in the 10 years she had been doing it.
Hosking said the new flyover could not come fast enough.
"Having some form of alleviation to that in the mornings and afternoons with a tidal flow lane is a great idea. I'd definitely welcome something like that," she said.
About the B2B
The Baypark to Bayfair (B2B) project includes two flyovers; one at Te Maunga which takes State Highway 29A over the railway line and the second at Bayfair that will take SH2 traffic up and over the Maunganui Rd and Girven Rd intersection.