A $4.5 million realignment roading project is on the radar for a traffic safety blackspot on a Northland road that has been the scene of serious crashes and a least one fatal accident.
But interim work to make the section of Ngunguru Rd known as Murphy's corner, 12km northeast of Whangarei, includes a minor reshape of this corner in and the installation of electronic warning signs.
The latest crash about 6.20am yesterday involved a head-on collision, leaving one woman trapped her in car while another vehicle ended up 10 metres off the road in a paddock.
The Whangārei District Council said the corner was identified in 2017 as a traffic safety blackspot due to the high number of accidents recorded.
A crash reduction survey was completed last year and looked at the number of accidents and the causes of those crashes. As a result, some initial safety works were instigated immediately.
It included a review of the safety signage on the stretch of road and new warning signage was installed either side of the curve.
Capital Works and Procurement manager for the WDC Greg Monteith, and member of the Northland Transportation Alliance, said a survey of the stretch of road was as also undertaken by Opus/WSP in July last year, identified the curve was deficient and recommended realignment options to be considered.
In October Opus/WSP considered a design of the realignment option.
"Through this process the scope of the project started to grow due to geotech issues and concerns through the design process that crashes may then start to migrate to adjacent corners and hence the need to include these in the design. At the same time passing lanes were then also added to the scope," Monteith said.
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"The cost estimate for preliminary designs of a realignment was estimated to be $4.5 million, but a project of this size requires funding applications to NZTA and requires a business case to justify the project."
Due to the length of time required to develop the business case and obtain funding for a project of this size an interim option is under way including a minor reshape of the corner in 2020/21 and the installation of electronic warning signage in 2019/20.
Gwen Murphy, who lived on the farm at the corner known by locals as Murphy's Corner, said the latest crash came as no surprise.
She lived at the property for 46 years, before moving last year, and had driven people injured in crashes to hospital. During her time on the farm she said there had been hundreds of crashes on the road that bordered her farm.
"It's just not funny the amount of crashes I saw... every week there would be someone in our paddocks."
Over the years the traffic volume had increased significantly with a noticeable increase with commuter traffic in the mornings and afternoons.
Murphy welcomed the roading project to improve the corner but said the speed limit needed to be lowered.
"It shouldn't be 100km/h through there. It's speed that sees most people leave the road, that's what it comes down to. About 80km/h would be better all the way from town out to the coast."
Murphy said many drivers failed to heed the recommended speed limit of 45km/h that appears on a road sign right on the corner.
Police were still piecing together exactly why the crash happened but confirmed two vehicles travelling in opposite directions were involved.
One BMW vehicle travelling towards Whangārei had left the road and ended up on its roof about 10 metres into a paddock. The male driver was able to get out of the car and make it up on to the road.
A woman in the second vehicle, which was spun around but remained on the road, was trapped and had to be cut free by firefighters before she was taken to hospital in an ambulance. Her dog was taken by police and delivered to a friend to look after.
After the woman was freed the road was reopened as traffic in both directions had begun to back up.
Police appealed to anyone who may have seen the two vehicles before the crash happened and asked them to ring 105, a national non-emergency number.
A Tutukaka Coast resident driving towards Whangārei to go for a run said the white BMW car had come up behind her vehicle while driving through Ngunguru before passing.
She was the second person at the crash scene just a few kilometres along the road. She stopped and checked the driver in the car on the road and spoke to the driver of the BMW before travelling along the road to get cellphone reception and contacted emergency services.
In January 2018 a woman involved in a two-vehicle crash near Murphy's Corner died in hospital 10 days later.
In 2015 a 36-year-old man was lucky to be alive after a collision with an empty school bus which drove over the bonnet of the car, trapping the driver.