Red-light runners are causing safety concerns at a new pedestrian crossing on a busy highway in Mount Maunganui, with some pedestrians saying they feel scared to use it.
Temporary traffic lights were activated on Maunganui Rd/State Highway 2 just north of the Bayfair roundabout on Wednesday.
The lights stop highway traffic to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross the two lanes on the Matapihi side. People then go through a corridor in the roadworks down to the existing underpass to reach Bayfair.
The changes are part of the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency's $120 million Baypark to Bayfair project.
The underpass is expected to eventually be temporarily closed as part of the roadworks but this has been put on hold while the agency investigates retaining the underpass - work Tauranga City Council has agreed to contribute $2m towards.
In a council committee meeting yesterday, infrastructure general manager Nic Johannson said a safety audit had been done but engineers had differing opinions.
The agency's designer found the lights were "functioning well" but the council's monitors found drivers were running red lights.
Johannson said it was not clear if this was a design issue or a behavioural one.
"If you run a red light involuntarily because you don't see it that is a design issue but if you run a red light deliberately that is more of an enforcement issue."
Looking at the layout of the crossing, he said council staff found it hard to see how it could have been done differently.
Asked for comment after the meeting, transport agency portfolio manager Darryl Coalter said he was "aware of two alleged incidents of a truck and a bus running the red light".
"The project team is confident with the design of the temporary layout and crossing."
All risk-mitigating recommendations in an independent road safety audit had been implemented. These included barriers and the use of "pedestrian controllers" at the lights.
"We have escorts in place at the crossing 24 hours a day seven days a week ... [as] an additional safety measure to assist users while they become familiar with the changes. We will review this in four weeks."
Tauranga Traffic Operations Centre manager James Wickham told the Bay of Plenty Times it was not unusual to have issues in the early days of a change like this.
There were signs warning both drivers and pedestrians about the changes.
The council was monitoring the lights and would pass on pictures of red-light runners to police.
About 40,000 vehicles a day used that stretch of highway, one of Tauranga's busiest.
There had been increased queuing lately but that could be attributed to schools returning and the new 30km/h speed limit as well as the lights and new roundabout layout.
Hewletts Rd was flowing more freely than usual, Wickham said.
When the Bay of Plenty Times visited the lights yesterday, the stream of highway traffic was interrupted multiple times in 10 minutes to allow pedestrians and cyclists to cross, helped by two escorts.
Bayfair Estate residents Steph and Laurie Thomas and Mandy Crichton of Mount Maunganui were nervous about the crossing.
"I felt safe enough crossing with the guy right there," Steph Thomas said. "But what about when he's gone?"
She was especially worried for schoolchildren and retirees from Bayfair Estate, and "so disappointed" residents were having to fight so hard to get the agency to consider keeping the underpass - "it's madness".
Crichton was worried about frustrated drivers forced to stop.
"Car drivers will get pissed off and impatient - it is a highway after all."
NZTA was approached for comment but did not respond by deadline.