Road access to the Taupō district will be safer in 20 to 30 years time.
Business cases are near completion for a major upgrade to State Highway 1, 100km north and south of Taupō. Associate Minister for Transport Julie Anne Genter was in Taupō last week and she confirmed the business cases for SH1 Taupō to Piarere and Taupō to Waiouru are both due to be completed by the end of the year.
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The minister was quick to refute previous information from the NZ Transport Agency that the business cases were on hold due to the government's new policy, Road to Zero. Ms Genter said the ministry wanted to make an immediate impact on the road toll. She expects the reduced speed limits and installation of wire barriers from Road to Zero will work in tandem with the massive changes to SH1 brought about by the business cases.
"It's all about preventing the tragic loss of life."
She said the speed reductions may be temporary, until the infrastructure rolls out over 20 to 30 years for SH1 Waiouru to Piarere (just north of Tirau). Road to Zero is still at the consultation phase, however the goal is for a 40 per cent drop in deaths and serious injuries by 2030 - "an ambitious but achievable goal", said Ms Genter.
In discussions with Taupō district mayor David Trewavas, Ms Genter said the safety and resilience of SH1 at Bulli Point came up.
"We talked about trucks passing at Bulli Point, and that there is no alternative route when this section of highway closes."
The NZTA budgeting round is in a three-year cycle, with the next round being 2021-2024.
"Expect to see a large share going to road safety improvements."
In Taupō for the Holden Street Smart programme at the invitation of motor racing legend turned practical driving advocate Greg Murphy, Ms Genter was at the wheel with Mr Murphy beside her advising. Driving around Taupō Motorsport Park, Ms Genter said she was there to get a sense of how the current driver education and licence system can be improved.
"I learned to drive 20 years ago and we learnt to not go hard on the brakes because of skidding. Today I learnt to go hard on the brakes and trust the ABS braking!"