Motorists travelling through Ngongotahā in the mornings are becoming increasingly frustrated with delays caused by roadworks at the Ngongotahā roundabout.
The work is part of an NZTA project aimed at improving the safety of State Highway 5, Tarukenga to Ngongotahā, and congestion at the existing SH5/SH36 roundabout.
NZTA says motorists should plan ahead, allow extra time for their journeys and, where possible, consider travelling outside peak periods.
The agency says it will also make adjustments to traffic management where it can to reduce delays.
However, those stuck in the traffic say the extent of disruption each morning is unpredictable and causing them to be late for work and school in Rotorua.
Hamurana resident Kylie Bronlund, who has to drop children in Ngongotahā before heading to work in Rotorua, said arriving at work on time was a big gamble.
"Today was particularly bad and I think for most of us commuters, it's a bit of a Russian roulette whether we're going to be delayed by 10 to 15 minutes or by half an hour to 40 minutes," she said.
"I have to do a drop-off at daycare on Western Rd. Today, I left at 8.10am and got to work at 9.20am. You just can't plan anything for the morning because you don't know how long you'll be held up, that's the frustrating thing."
After the initial road-widening work is complete, the next stage of the project would involve closing the existing roundabout and opening the Western Rd detour.
Bronlund said, in her view, this could make congestion worse.
"A lot of us are worried about that because people will cut through past Ngongotahā Primary, there's a big question mark about it and how it will be managed.
"One thing I'll say for the Ngongotahā community and people travelling through is everyone is really good at letting people in, but obviously if you're at the back of the line you're buggered."
NZTA is holding public information sessions in Rotorua in the coming weeks where the Rotorua community is invited to learn more about key projects and plans for the city's transport network.
Bronlund said the meetings were a good idea, but only if feedback from the community was taken on board.
Michelle Creswell also lives near Hamurana and said the disruption had created issues for her son, who caught the bus to John Paul College every day.
"The traffic is just out the gate," she said.
"It is really bad. Luckily I work from home now but the times I've had to go into town I could leave here at 7.45am and not get to where I need to be until 9am.
"My son gets the bus, he gets picked up at 7.30am and he texted me at 8.30am saying 'we haven't got to Ngongotahā yet'.
"His form teacher has questioned where he is in the morning and it's simply because he's on the bus trying to get to school."
She said she knew of people who were choosing to travel in the other direction around Lake Rotorua and into town from the east side which, even though it is further in distance, was saving them time.
However, that was not an option for everyone.
Creswell agreed the public meetings would help only if they included consultation with the community.
Both Creswell and Bronlund said the work to improve safety and reduce congestion was necessary in the long run, but questioned whether enough was being done to manage disruption to commuters.
Waka Kotahi NZTA acting regional manager infrastructure delivery, Jo Wilton, told the Rotorua Daily Post it could take time for motorists to adjust to the changes in the road layout and she expected delays to lessen further as that happened.
Wilton said motorists should plan their journeys and allow extra time to get to their destinations.
"Our team will continue to monitor the impact on travel times and make adjustments to traffic management, where possible, to reduce delays.
"We appreciate the delays are frustrating and thank motorists for their patience while we undertake these important works," Wilton said.
"The State Highway 5 Tarukenga to Ngongotahā safety and State Highway 5/36 roundabout improvements project will make this busy stretch of state highway safer, with roundabout improvements to accommodate more traffic.
"We're doing our best to make things as seamless as possible by maintaining property access and ensuring residents and businesses know in advance when work is happening."
Wilton said at times, temporary speed limit and warning signs would be needed.
In January, NZTA said the $14 million project was part of the regional package of the NZ Upgrade Programme announced in 2020.
Director of regional relationships Steve Mutton said the regional package wasn't just about delivering key infrastructure projects, but also keeping everyone moving, boosting productivity and saving lives.
The safety improvements project covers just over 8km of state highway, starting in the west near Tarukenga and ending at the SH5/SH36 roundabout.
Improvements include widening SH5 to allow for a new wide centreline, sections of flexible median safety barrier, roadside barriers, rumble strips and shortening the existing passing lane so vehicles can merge safely.
Work began with clearing trees and vegetation, and, in some locations, fences inside the road boundary were relocated.
Where the road is being widened, topsoil will be moved beside the road and extra material brought in.
"People can expect a busy few months through this area," Mutton said.
"There will be temporary speed limits and traffic signs in place throughout the construction period. Please slow down for your safety, and that of other road users and our team on the ground."
He said Waka Kotahi would continue to update the community on the works, including when there are road closures or detours in place.
The focus would be on ensuring two lanes remained open for traffic, unless it was not practicable or safe.
The project is expected to take 12 months to complete.