New traffic lights in one of Tauranga's worst congestion areas will get the green light this week but businesses in the area are still seeing red.
The Bay of Plenty Times can reveal the works to widen 15th Ave and install traffic lights are six months behind schedule and $250,000 over budget.
Meanwhile, businesses trapped behind the invasive project have labelled the 15th Ave Corridor Improvements as "ridiculous", questioning why it has taken contractors three attempts to get a footpath correct.
Landowner Des Cook has seven tenants on 15th Ave and said, in his view, council contractors Higgins had achieved very little and only made the traffic flow worse.
''They are extremely inefficient and are absolutely shocking. The amount of money that's been spent down here must be astronomical. They have poured concrete crossings, they and they have ripped concrete crossings up.''
''The length of time it's taken to do [this] is ridiculous.''
The Tauranga City Council says Higgins is meeting expectations. The Covid-19 lockdown had pushed out the timeline but there had been delays in dealing with some unknown underground services, the council said. Higgins directed all queries to the council for a response.
The project began in September last year and was originally expected to be completed by February with a budget of $1.6 million. The project is now expected to be finished by the end of next month and cost $1.85m.
Cook felt for his tenants, saying they had been hit in the pocket and there had been major financial impacts.
''On occasions, they shut our entrances completely so there was no access for anyone to get into the property."
Cook said he went to the council and came back with signs for businesses to say they were still open, as the works had "scared people off".
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Pauline Green from 15th Ave Self-service Laundromat said a lot of her customers had gone elsewhere "because they either have not been able to get in or not been sure how to".
"It has definitely affected our income. Then of course, with Covid on top of that, it has been extremely tough."
Green, who is among the business using signs to remind people she's still operating, said she could not wait for the project to be finished.
Auto Link general manager Grant Wilkie said its customers were frustrated ''so you know, you've got people driving back and forwards wondering what to do''.
He said contractors had pulled the driveways a couple of times and had to redo a footpath which was too high.
''It was much higher than our carpark, it would have been like a swimming pool if it rained. So they had to take that up and lower it again.''
''The whole thing has been a bit of a ''shambles''.
''It's a bit crazy really and it has seemed to take a long time to do what should have been simple road alterations.''
Tauranga City Council infrastructure general manager Nic Johansson said that while Covid-19's lockdown was a factor in pushing out the timeline, there had been delays in dealing with some unknown underground services.
Johansson said it was hoped the lights would make it safer for pedestrians and cyclists to cross the intersection and also help streamline afternoon traffic "so there is less need for people to make rat-runs around the side roads".
He confirmed peak congestion in the area had become worse since the lockdown, with vehicles backing up in the side streets and on Fraser St. The average daily vehicle count for as recent as the week of June 17 was 26,966.
The congestion was expected to continue for a few weeks until people got used to using the main roads, Johansson said.
"More people should be able to drive through each green light phase at the Fraser/15th Ave intersection. This will mostly apply to people who are driving straight through the intersection along 15th Ave."
Johansson said the council would not offer any rates rebate or relief to affected businesses.
"It's not our policy to compensate businesses for work that we do to maintain and upgrade city assets," he said.
"We know that construction projects can be hard on the community. We've maintained access to properties throughout this project. On request, we provided some signs to help let customers know that the businesses were still open. That's all part of working with people to help minimise the disruption as much as we can."
Johansson said Higgins was "meeting our expectations for this project".
"They did their own quality control on two small sections of concrete and redid them at their own cost."
The impact on businesses is expected to ease towards the end of the project.
The challenge of 15th Avenue
- 15th Ave is a key transport corridor between the city centre and Welcome Bay, Maungatapu, Hairini and Ōhauiti
- Approximately 26,000 vehicles use it every day
- Most vehicles on this route are single-occupancy
- Peak-time congestion on this route affects journey time reliability and safety of vehicle drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and other vulnerable road users
- Traffic entering from side roads creates delays for people moving along 15th Ave
- The merge from two lanes to one immediately after the Fraser Street intersection creates queues. This prevents vehicles from proceeding through the intersection on a green light, which in turn affects the overall efficiency of this intersection
- Public transport efficiency is impacted by peak-time congestion
*Source - Tauranga City Council