As the dryer summer months rapidly approach us, so too does the construction season for road works, both maintenance and new work.
Looking at the schedule for 2021/22 there will be lots happening across the region's state highways and as a result, there will be considerable disruption with a mix of delays and detours.
But we can't complain, as there has been a big push to get this work done and the inconvenience of lengthy periods of roadworks is simply part of the price we pay for progress and improvements.
State highway work scheduled this summer includes the long-awaited project to seal the last 12km through the Tangarakau Gorge, on SH43, which is set to start later this year.
The contract for the first 2km section of seal has recently been awarded to Inframax, while the design for stage 2 works is now well under way and is expected to be tendered in mid-2022. This work on SH43 has been funded through the Provincial Growth Fund.
Another significant project is the Kahouri Stream Bridge replacement. The existing single-lane bridge located near Stratford's cemetery is well overdue for an upgrade and the new two-lane replacement is a very welcome safety improvement on this road.
The structure options report is complete, the preferred option has been agreed and early land acquisition negotiations are under way. The construction period is early 2022-23.
Other projects include the new bridge at the Pohokura Stream (now completed), a new bridge at the Manawawiri Stream at Toko, a range of safety improvements including guard rails, way finding and improved passing opportunities along the route. They say good things take time, this seems like an eternity, but we are now seeing promises being delivered.
SH3 is destined for some major maintenance works as well as NZTA Waka Kotahi will launch into the expanded summer works programme to address the issues being experienced with potholes.
The Hawera to New Plymouth stretch of SH3 is currently littered with temporary repairs put in place to patch the road over winter months. The plan to make good on these areas will require significant work, including resealing in many places, meaning delays will become the norm this summer but the outcomes will be worth it.
Like all roading authorities, NZTA is always looking for ways to improve safety on our roads but a proposal for SH3, which I saw for the first time last week, is sure to meet with mixed reactions.
Referred to as a Safe System Transformation intervention, which in this case means a median barrier on sections of the SH3 corridor from Inglewood to Hawera, is no minor intervention.
The sections listed in the report are extensive and suggest almost the whole length of corridor will have very limited passing opportunities, unless more passing lanes are constructed.
Having limited opportunities to pass safely, will, in my opinion, only lead to increased driver frustration especially when stuck behind slow-moving agricultural contracting machinery, and in turn some drivers may take highly risky passing manoeuvres out of sheer impatience.
Please don't get me wrong, the agriculture machinery contractors are entitled to and need to use the road as much as anyone, they are just an example of the broad mix of road users that are likely to get caught up in the debate.
Meanwhile, NZTA's work on revising speed limits continues and we await the final proposals and how they will be applied to our region's highways. There is a strong school of thought that suggests SH3 may well have a lowering of the speed limit to 80km/h, but this is still in process and is yet to be decided.
If both proposals become a reality the journey from Hāwera to New Plymouth will be a totally different experience. Driving at 80km/h with median barriers ensuring minimal places to pass slow vehicles will be the norm.
It's hard to imagine this happening, but in reality, it is only a couple of decisions away.