Drivers speeding through roadworks on one of Rotorua's busiest arterial routes could drag out the completion of the Eastern Corridor project and put lives at risk.
At a Regional Transport Meeting at Bay of Plenty Regional Council on Thursday, Rotorua deputy mayor Dave Donaldson raised concerns at the rate of vehicles speeding through roadworks on the Te Ngae Rd section of State Highway 30.
Donaldson said people were not respecting the 30km/h zone on the Te Ngae Rd section of State Highway 30.
"It just takes one person to step out from behind a digger and we will have a tragedy.
"It's a concern to me as an Eastside resident. I have noted the times, and again twice on my way to the meeting today, of vehicles going through at 70km/h which is [usually] the normal speed limit. It's 30km/h now with workmen on site."
Donaldson told the Rotorua Daily Post he was talking about the Sala St intersection to Tarawera Rd roundabout and to Iles Rd - stage one of the project.
The usual speed limit on Te Ngae Rd from Sala St to Tarawera Rd is 70km/h and 60km/h from Tarawera Rd to Isles Rd.
Donaldson said the road works were a significant disruption, but were necessary.
"But unfortunately at certain times of the day, especially peak times, people just charge through there.
"It's putting workmen's lives at risk."
Donaldson said he would have no sympathy for anyone fined for speeding through the roadworks and hoped police could show a heavier presence in the area.
Members of the community had also shared their concerns with him, he said.
"The traffic management is really well done but still, it doesn't prevent what could happen if a worker stepped out unexpectedly and got bowled. We've seen that with other roadworks. We don't want something like that to happen here.
"30km/h seems quite slow and it is. It's deliberate. You can't ask a workman to jump out of the way of something going 70 or even faster than that. If highway patrol have time to look at it, I think it would be much appreciated."
New Zealand Transport Agency Waka Kotahi portfolio delivery manager Jo Wilton said motorists speeding through work sites were a significant problem and put their own safety, that of other road users and road workers at risk.
"We regularly witness motorists exceeding the 30km/h temporary speed limit."
Since February, the transport agency recorded five near-misses where speeding or driver inattention could have injured workers.
"These have included vehicles striking cones – resulting in cones being launched with force at our equipment, people or vehicles on site. We have also had a truck hit a site fence causing it to fall on a worker," Wilton said.
"Motorists losing control of their vehicle is the number one risk to our workers' safety. It's imperative that people adhere to the slower speeds on site."
Wilton said the transport agency has had to close lanes more often - instead of closing shoulders - to ensure the safety of workers. This increased travel time through the site and could change the construction methods. If people continued to speed through the road works, it could take longer to complete the project, she said.
"We know that motorists find it frustrating when temporary speed limits are in place outside of our work hours. However, it's important to understand that we only do this to ensure the safety of all road users.
"Ultimately, motorists need to put themselves in the boots of our workers and understand the very real danger their driving behaviour can create, not just for our workers, but for themselves and other road users as well.
"Roadworkers are all someone's husband, wife, father, mother, son, daughter, brother or sister. They go to work, do long hours, and expect to go home safely at the end of the day, as do we all."
More signs aimed at reinforcing safe driving were expected in the new year.
A business owner in the midst of the works on Te Ngae Rd said she did not believe people speeding through the works was a big problem.
She felt congestion was more of an issue and hoped the roadworks would be over soon.
Temporary speed limits are in place at various locations of the Eastern Corridor project but there was a 30km/h speed limit on Tarawera Rd roundabout at all times until about May next year because the temporary roundabout could not operate safety under normal speed.
The project was expected to be completed in late 2021.
No one from New Zealand Police was available for comment.