A four lane highway from Whangārei to Wellsford is back on the table after concerns the vital roadworks had been canned.
A mix of median and roadside barriers with wider centre lines are emerging as possible safety solutions for SH1 south of Whangārei but senior roading advocates are adamant the only way to save lives on the deadly stretch is to build a four-lane highway.
An updated report on safety solutions for SH1 Whangārei to Wellsford was presented to the Regional Transport Committee yesterday and it was also revealed during the meeting an option for a four-lane highway was not off the cards yet and was one of 12 major proposed projects nationally that was under re-evaluation.
NZTA statistics show that 36 people have been killed on the 70km stretch of road between Whangārei and Te Hana over the last 10 years, with half of the fatal crashes resulting from loss of control and head-on collisions.
Of the crashes, 86 per cent had happened on roads in between intersections, while 14 per cent of the crashes had been at intersections.
NZTA regional delivery manager Lloyd de Beer presented an update on proposed work for the section of SH1 from Whangārei to Port Marsden Highway.
After an analysis of crash information, three public meetings and an open day, the emerging safety options included using a mix of median and roadside barriers along with wider centre lines.
"This corridor has a high volume of traffic. The likelihood of someone crossing the centre line, for what ever reason, and hitting another vehicle travelling in the opposite direction is very high," de Beer said.
Head-on crashes were a major issue and finding a solution to save lives was important.
NZTA director regional relationships Steve Mutton said the Agency was passionate about saving lives and a four-lane option would take a long time to complete.
The agency said they wanted to start the safety work as quickly as possible to save as many lives as possible.
He said 12 state highway projects, including the Whangārei to Wellsford stretch, had been identified as requiring re-evaluation to align with the new priorities and strategic direction set out in the Government Policy Statement (GPS) on land transport.
Mutton said there was no priority and each of the projects would be looked at and a decision made as to whether the project would be progressed or removed.
Chairman of the committee John Bain applauded the work being done by NZTA and the safety solutions that had emerged, but said the community saw a four-lane highway as the safest way Northlanders and freight could move south of Whangārei.
"This section of highway should be four laned and heading towards the same standard as between Hamilton and Cambridge."
Deputy chairman and former police area commander Paul Dimery left no one doubting his position.
"A four-lane highway will save lives. It's our major priority."
Dimery said options of barriers and wider centre lines was not enough.
"This is not going far enough to save Northlanders lives and it's not going far enough to save our visitors' lives."
In April, the four-lane highway idea was off the government agenda with the announcement of the GPS.
The bad news came after a delegation of senior Northland roading and local government representatives travelled to Parliament and met the Minister of Transport Phil Twyford to show how important such a highway was to the region.
After the 90-minute meeting in the minister's office, Twyford told the Northlanders it was clear he could not promise a four-lane highway under the Government's priorities.
Bill Shepherd, chairman of Northland Regional Council, along with Whangārei District Council Mayor Sheryl Mai, Far North District Council Mayor John Carter, Kaipara Mayor Jason Smith, Regional Transport Committee chairman John Bain, and WDC CEO Rob Furlong in his role as chairman of the Northland Transportation Alliance were in Wellington to attend the Local Government Road Safety Summit.
Shepherd was delighted the four-lane project was back on the table.
"The community and industry are saying we have to have four-lanes for the growth of the Northland economy. So getting a four-lane highway ticks all the boxes government wants which are resilience, safety and economic development of the region," Shepherd said.