A roundabout or traffic lights could be on the way for Taupō's troublesome Kiddle Dr/Napier Rd intersection after a draft analysis of options recommended one or the other as the best option.

The Taupō District Council commissioned the analysis of options for the intersection after Mayor David Trewavas last month proposed a motion to the council that the intersection's design be investigated.

The Napier Road / Kiddle Drive / Arrowsmith Avenue Intersection Optioneering Report by consultants Stantec was presented at today's Taupō District Council meeting.

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Until last October the intersection gave priority to traffic travelling straight up or down Napier Rd while traffic crossing at Kiddle Dr and Arrowsmith Ave had compulsory stop signs. However the intersection was plagued by accidents and near misses - in 2014 NZTA named it as one of the top 10 most dangerous intersections in New Zealand.

Once the East Taupō Arterial bypass had been built, the majority of the vehicles at the intersection were travelling from Kiddle Dr and Arrowsmith Ave so last October the priority was changed to allow traffic from Kiddle Dr and Arrowsmith Ave to continue through while drivers on Napier Rd had to stop. The change was funded by NZTA with the council at the time electing to set aside money in its Long Term Plan for a roundabout to be built in 2026/27.

However the change has caused some confusion, with multiple reports of drivers failing to stop at the signs on Napier Rd and six reported accidents.

Following the Mr Trewavas' motion being passed at the January 30 meeting, the council commissioned an urgent report from consultants Stantec, who did a safety review and identified the problems at the new intersection as driver confusion due to priority change, speed management issues, surface levels through the intersection, road marking legibility, traffic island shape, vehicle tracking and street lighting layout.

"Driver confusion at intersection is a significant issue," the report says. "The crash analysis confirms that drivers are not complying with the current method of control at the intersection. The problem is drivers are passing through the intersection and colliding with traffic arriving from the side.

"It is considered the priority change [to allow the right of way to vehicles coming from the Kiddle/Arrowsmith sides] has not fulfilled the anticipated improvements to intersection safety and an alternative arrangement is required."

The report presents a long list and a short list of options for the intersection.

The short list options are a roundabout, which provides better safety to motor vehicles and has less-severe vehicle crashes but has higher cyclist crash rates than other intersection forms, or a signal-controlled intersection (traffic lights) which better improves the safety of pedestrians and cyclists. The intersection is heavily used twice a day by school students crossing from Richmond Heights to Kiddle Dr.

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A traffic signals concept design from the Napier Road / Kiddle Drive / Arrowsmith Avenue Intersection Optioneering Report.
A traffic signals concept design from the Napier Road / Kiddle Drive / Arrowsmith Avenue Intersection Optioneering Report.

An addendum to the report notes that at present the intersection effectively separates people living in the Richmond Heights part of Taupo from the schools and hospitals around the Hilltop area, but that pedestrians and cyclists are not keen to cross the intersection due to the perception that it is unsafe.

If the intersection were to attract significant pedestrian and cyclist movements due to an improvement in safety, that would raise the question of whether a roundabout or traffic lights would be more appropriate. While a roundabout would be more efficient, delays at traffic signals would be offset by providing safe crossing opportunities to vulnerable road users, the report says.

The cost of a roundabout is estimated at $1.6 million to $1.8 million, and the cost of traffic lights at $1.5 million to $1.7 million, although lights also have higher ongoing operational and maintenance costs than a roundabout.

A roundabout concept design from the Napier Road / Kiddle Drive / Arrowsmith Avenue Intersection Optioneering Report.
A roundabout concept design from the Napier Road / Kiddle Drive / Arrowsmith Avenue Intersection Optioneering Report.

Before a decision on what should happen at the intersection can be made, the report recommends a road safety audit, a speed survey, a pedestrian and cycle flow survey and a review of crash data for the crashes since the intersection change.

Councillors approved unbudgeted expenditure of $80,000 + GST to begin detailed design and investigation and put a further $1.72 million into the 2020/21 Annual Plan for the design and construction of whichever option it selects to address the problems at the intersection. It will also explore opportunities with NZTA for co-funding of the intersection improvements.

However some expressed concern about the cost of making the intersection safer. Cr Christine Rankin said she hoped the council would be telling NZTA "in no uncertain terms" that it had given the council the wrong advice.

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"This is just a disaster and now we have to pay to fix it. I don't know how they could have got it so wrong," she said.

The council intends to hold a public workshop on the matter next week.