After an influx of letters to the editor sent to the Rotorua Daily Post with questions about roadworks on Te Ngae Rd, Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency's regional manager of infrastructure delivery Jo Wilton answered some of the common questions letter writers have about the Eastern Corridor – Stage One work.
What is taking so long and what is the timeline? What do you say to a letter writer who says the Te Ngae Rd works are the worst he has seen from a time and safety point of view? He says the works are taking an "unacceptable" amount of time with just three or four people working some days.
The safety of all road users and our road workers is a priority for Waka Kotahi. Any traffic management on the corridor, including when workers are not present on-site, is there for safety purposes. This upgrade aims to improve safety, create better opportunities for cyclists and pedestrians, improve key intersections and create more predictable journey times.
Constructing major roading projects on busy state highways is a huge challenge and requires very careful planning. The construction programme is put together with the aim of completing the work as quickly as possible while minimising the effect on the community and keeping traffic moving. There are multiple worksites on the corridor to enable us to complete this work on time. While we have faced challenges with underground services and inclement weather, we have worked incredibly hard to ensure this has not added to the completion timeframe.
We are continually looking at efficiencies, and where an opportunity exists to speed things up the project will consider it. The team has implemented two acceleration plans to ensure the project remains on track to finish by the end of the year, despite the impact of Covid-19.
One of the major milestones, the signalised Tarawera Rd intersection, is due for completion and expected to be operational in July. The rest of the works are expected to have only a minor impact on the community and are on target to be completed by late-2021.
Why does it appear one part is finished only to be dug up again?
In some areas, initial preparation work for services (eg, power, phone, internet) was done ahead of the primary works being undertaken and the site temporarily reinstated to keep it safe for the public while work took place on other sites.
Why does it look like work is starting and stopping repeatedly?
Works are progressing as quickly as possible, given the constraints such as working around high traffic volumes and where underground services restrict some work areas. This means we have to work in multiple locations at once to keep progressing.
For example, when unknown underground services are found, works are unable to progress until relocations or safety protocols have been confirmed. Another example is the undergrounding of power lines, where we're co-ordinating works with utility providers to ensure access is maintained to all properties at all times.
What is the thinking behind where coned-off spaces are?
We work hard to minimise disruption to traffic, local residents and businesses as much as possible during works of this nature while ensuring safety for all road users and our road workers. Where possible, we are completing the most disruptive work outside of peak travel times to reduce the impact on live traffic.
Working across multiple sites requires extensive traffic management planning. When identifying traffic management plans for construction works, factors such as property impacts, safety concerns and the condition/access of alternative routes are considered.
Every traffic management plan is put together with the aim of minimising the impact to travel times and maximising safety. For example, we cone off areas where something might pose a risk to either our workers or the community.
When motorists disregard traffic management they put their safety, that of other road users and our road workers at risk.
What else do you want the public to know about the works?
Speeding through our work sites is a common issue and poses a significant safety risk – especially during winter when visibility can be limited, and wet weather can occur more frequently. We ask everyone to stick to the posted speed limits (30km/h or 50km/h) to ensure everyone gets home safely.
We know motorists find it frustrating when temporary speed limits are in place outside of our work hours, however it's important to understand we only do this to ensure the safety of all road users. For example, where a hazard may exist, such as loose chip, ghost markings or changes in road layout, that make it unsafe for motorists to travel at normal speeds.
We are encouraging motorists to plan ahead and allow extra travel time, particularly in the mornings. Where possible, people may also like to consider travelling outside peak periods. We appreciate delays are frustrating and thank motorists for their patience.
The project is on track to be completed by the end of the year.