The Katikati Bypass is the option receiving the most interest from the public at the first of the current round of NZ Transport Agency open days in the Katikati War Memorial Hall.
While the other display panels at yesterday’s open day received a glance in passing, the Katikati crowd was round the table seeking public feedback on the bypass concepts.
Display panels placed around the Katikati Hall showed different safety improvement option the NZTA is looking at as it thinks on the future development of each section of the Tauranga Northern Link highway – the project turning SH2 from a dangerous and congested former country road, into a modern highway that can handle the traffic volumes.
NZ Transport Agency Bay of Plenty State Highways Manager, Niclas Johansson says it’s a business case driven exercise, which is why the Katikati bypass is now included in the Northern Arterial after being excluded from earlier versions.
Traffic growth through Katikati which has been steady at two per cent for some years, suddenly picked up to six per cent.
“And between Omokoroa and Tauranga we had double figures too,” says Niclas.
When it will be built is not clear cut.
The NZTA doesn’t yet own all the required land, and the purchasing process and must also fit in with the final approvals process for whatever becomes the preferred route and the resource consenting for the chosen route.
“It’s a statutory process we always have to go through. What impact we have on environment, we will be doing big earthworks. What impact we will be having on streams, and neighbours. There is a process.
“That’s not something we can decide, that’s all regulated by law.”
Thursday was the first of three open days in this round.
The second open day will be held at St John’s Anglican Church Hall, in Waihi from 11am-3pm today, and a third will be hosted tomorrow at the Omokoroa Settlers Hall from 11am to 3pm.
“The open days are all about hearing what people are thinking about these options, if they think we have got it right,” says Niclas.
A lot of the decisions are driven by traffic volumes. For example the SH2 Omokoroa intersection. While a roundabout might be a solution now, in the longer view a grade separation might be safer.
NZTA’s pick for the Omokoroa to Te Puna section is for a new four lane road with a central median barrier and a grade separated interchange at Omokoroa Road, with over bridges for local traffic at other major intersections and keep the existing highway as a local road for local traffic.
Bay of Plenty State highways manager Niclas Johansson.
“At a certain volume you get the safety and efficiency benefits with a roundabout, but then it gets to the point where traffic volumes can’t be handled by a roundabout, and you need a grade separation,” says Niclas.
“What the point is along this route I’m not entirely sure, that’s why we haven’t actually finalised the intersection layout at Omokoroa. When you hear from us later in the year we will probably have a longer view.”
This week’s feedback meetings follow previous open days in July 2016 in Katikati, Omokoroa and Te Puna.
They were attended by more than 800 people and delivered a great amount of feedback on the community’s concerns and desires.
Between May 2011 and May 2015, 20 people were killed and 44 seriously injured on SH2 between Waihi and Te Puna.
Crashes were caused by: loss of control, failing to give way, didn’t look or see, and alcohol or drugs. The predominant crash types are: running off the road and, most severe, head-on.