The NZ Transport Agency is proposing reducing the speed limit on State Highway 1 from Taupō Airport to Motuoapa in an attempt to cut the number of serious injury crashes and deaths on the road.
It plans to hold a series of community drop-in sessions later this month to engage with the community and allow people to have their say before beginning formal consultation in October.
NZTA area programme manager, Waikato safe network programme, Junine Stewart and her NZTA colleagues community engagement manager Craig McKibbin and senior safety engineer John Garvich presented to last week's Taupō District Council meeting on the proposal.
Stewart said the Taupō district had been the site of devastating fatal traffic accidents and said New Zealand performed poorly in road safety compared to the other OECD countries.
She said the stretch of road between Taupō Airport and Motuoapa had seen a significant increase in traffic volume over the past 10 years, from 5400 vehicles per day, to 6800 per day.
Her report said the NZTA had heard from communities along SH1 from Taupō Airport to Motuoapa that current speeds feel too high to be safe. The section of SH1 was used by many people for many reasons, which created safety issues for everyone.
During holidays there was a big increase in the number of people; including tourists wanting to take in the scenery, cyclists, pedestrians, campervans and holidaymakers. Motutere Campground, with pedestrians crossing and vehicles with caravans and boats pulling in and out was a concern.
Lakeside settlement residents at Waitahanui, Te Rangiita and Motuoapa felt current speeds were unsafe, there were tight and difficult corners on some parts of the route as well as steep drop-offs, there was concern about noise and vibration from heavy vehicles.
Significant sections of this route are included in the top 10 percent of the regional network that will result in the greatest reduction in deaths and serious injuries through speed management.
Between 2009 and 2018 there were 226 crashes on that stretch of state highway, with eight people killed and 30 serious injuries.
Crashes on the route also resulted in long delays and detours because of road closures.
The NZTA's Safe Network Programme is a three-year $1.4 billion programme which aims to make the country's highest risk state highways and local roads safer by delivering safe roads and roadsides, safe and appropriate speeds and safe level crossings.
It is based on the Safe System, an approach which aims to create a more forgiving road system. Under a Safe System, it is accepted that people make mistakes, but they shouldn't cost their lives.
While most crashes are caused by a number of contributing factors, speed was a factor in 102 fatal crashes nation wide last year and even when not a cause, is most likely to determine whether anyone is killed, injured or unharmed.
Speed also makes little difference to journey times with other factors, such as traffic flows and intersections, having a greater effect on journey time, she said.
NZTA is currently identifying roads throughout the country where it can gain the biggest reduction in deaths and serious injuries.
McKibbin said NZTA planned to hold public drop in sessions at Taupō Market, Te Kura o Waitahanui and New World Tūrangi to allow people to have their say ahead of the formal consultation process, which would begin in October.
Stewart's report said the proposed speed limit changes would have minimal impact on travel time.
Along the 34km route, travel time would increase by less than 1.5 minutes.
Garvich said the changes would give more consistent speeds through villages and slower speeds through the more difficult sections of the route, while leaving longer sections, such as Waitahanui to Hatepe village, at 100km/h.
He said there was strong community support for lowering the speed on sections of the highway and that was why it had been picked as one of the first in the country to be done, although there were 40 areas throughout New Zealand being considered for speed limit reductions.
The proposed speed limit changes are:
Taupō Airport to Waitahanui 100km/h to 80km/h, Waitahanui village 70km/h to 60km/h, Hatepe village to Motutere 100km/h to 80km/h, Motutere campground 100km/h to 60km/h, Motutere Point to Te Rangiita 100km/h to 80km/h, Te Rangiita village 70km/h to 60km/h, Motuoapa village 70km/h to 60km/h. Sections of road, including Hatepe Hill and Te Rangiita to Motuoapa would remain at 100km/h.