Concerns about parking loom large for some Cameron Rd business owners waiting for final designs of a $45 million Government-funded transformation of the corridor.
On Tuesday, Tauranga City Council voted unanimously, and enthusiastically, to accept the $45m in grant funding announced for the project on Friday. It will come from the Government's $3 billion fund for shovel-ready projects.
Focusing on the 3km stretch from 17th Avenue to the CBD, the project involves turning on-street parking into peak-hour bus clearways, to be made permanent within five to 10 years, the meeting heard.
Footpaths would be widened and bike lanes added on each side. Two vehicle lanes each direction would remain, and current designs would see median refuges remain, the meeting heard.
The council was working on the designs, which will go out for wider community consultation before construction work starts in mid-2021.
Ricki Lunam, owner of Gluten-Free Me on the corner of Cameron and 9th Ave, said she was pleased to hear the long-awaited improvements were a huge step closer.
"It is definitely needed as we see lots of near misses and there have been people knocked over while crossing the 9th Avenue and Cameron Rd intersection.
"This is a frantically busy area ... We definitely need to do something to make it safer for people to travel around this area, especially older people."
She hoped the changes would encourage more people to shop in the area but said parking was a huge issue.
"I wouldn't like to see the council take away any car parks, as we haven't got enough parking spaces around the city now," she said.
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Tauranga Primary School principal Fiona Hawes said she and the school were pleased to see progress with the project.
"Our school is mainly interested in how the plan will consider the safety of children traveling to and from school," Hawes said.
"In particular, we would like to see safe ways of crossing Cameron Rd, safe biking and walkways measures, and access to parking for school drop off and pick-ups."
Tauranga Boys' College principal Robert Mangan said the funding announcement was "very exciting" and a positive step towards progressing much-needed improvements.
"Anything that improves the transport route and ultimately the safety of those using this important route has to be a good thing, particularly for our school, with 2000 boys pouring onto Cameron Rd at the end of the day.
"But the devil is always in the detail and I can't wait to see the council's design plans and what the council proposes to transform this very busy transport route."
The Incubator Creative Hub director Simone Anderson said the funding gave the city an exciting opportunity to create a "sustainable solution" to the gridlock along the route.
"It's really going to start to activate more people across the city to think about the way they travel to and from work, particularly the improvements to the public transport infrastructure and cycleways."
"But the P-scourge [parking scourge] does loom large. However, maybe the changes will mean people don't need to rely so much on their vehicle and we don't need so many car parks."
Anderson said she was excited to see the designs.
"While some people may be a bit nervous about losing a few car parks, we need to have faith that the council will come up with a plan which most people will be happy with."
"As the saying goes, you need to crack some eggs to create a great omelette.'
Elliotts Funeral service owner and manager Neil Gedge said his immediate concern was how much parking would need to go.
"The bus lanes scare me a bit. If they are looking at taking away the median strip for bus lanes my question is how much parking will remain."
He said he would not want to see the trees in the median strip go, and more pedestrian crossings were also needed.
"Whatever the final design plan looks like, concerns about parking definitely looms large in lots of people's minds."