School exit given safety tick

It’s been labelled dangerously unsafe, but a Pyes Pa school’s exit on to State Highway 36 has been given the all-clear by officials following safety concerns around the stretch of road.

Merrick Road resident Lloyd Klee firmly believes ACG Tauranga’s exit on to SH36 is ill planned and questions why resource consent was given for this development by Western Bay of Plenty District Council.

A vehicle speeds past ACG Tauranga’s new exit on SH36. Photo: Chris Callinan.

He proposes the safer option of Keenan Road is better suited given the school is situated on the corner of SH36 and Keenan Rd.

ACG Tauranga is currently in the throes of completing construction on its exit on to SH36 while all traffic enters and exits off Keenan Rd in the meantime.

But it’s a design both the New Zealand Transport Agency and Western Bay Council approve of, who see it as a move that will minimise vehicle conflict and enhance student safety when they are being picked up or dropped off at school.

NZTA’s Bay of Plenty highways manager Niclas Johansson says fears around the speed of traffic around the chosen SH36 exit location will be minimised given the proximity of the Pyes Pa Road roundabout.

The chances of any crash resulting in death or serious injury is in fact reduced, he adds, with the school exit next to the Pyes Pa Road roundabout compared to having vehicles exit the Keenan Road intersection.

“At this point most vehicles will be either decelerating on their approach to the roundabout, or starting to accelerate after departing from the roundabout,” says Niclas.

“These slower speeds will create more opportunity for vehicles to safely leave the school and reduce the risk of any serious crashes occurring.

“The Keenan Road intersection highlighted by Mr Klee as a possible exit alternative is further along SH36 and will have traffic travelling closer to the 100km/h open road speed limit.”

Niclas says having all school traffic using this intersection would create more congestion and increase the risk of death or serious injury in the event of a crash.

NZTA statistics show motorists involved in a side-on crash are more likely to be killed or seriously injured than in any other type of crash. The probability of surviving a side-on crash is greater when the impact speed is less than 50km/h.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Infrastructure Services group manager Gary Allis says council approved the resource consent through the usual consenting process.

This included the consideration of traffic impact issues which resulted in a requirement that entry and exit to and from the school met with NZTA standards.

But in Lloyd’s corner is Bay of Plenty MP Todd Muller, who is keen on seeing at least some heightened safety awareness.

Since noticing the exit’s development on to SH36, Todd has been in regular contact with ACG chief information officer Ben Statham in the last few months to address his safety concerns.

He has also met with NZTA officials prior to Christmas regarding what he believes is a sensible solution to increased safety – namely electronic variable speed signs.

Installed outside a number of Tauranga and Western Bay of plenty schools, the signs display various speed limits of 40, 60 or 70km/h, depending on the location of the school.

The electronically lit up signs are turned on before and after school and at other times such as lunch time during school hours.

And Todd hopes NZTA will “come to the party” and investigate the option of what he believes is a highly effective safety tool.

“There is certainly risk when you have got a new school,” says Todd.

“We all know now that people tend to do a lot of driving, dropping off and picking up, as opposed to the old days when I rode to Te Puna School with my chopper flag on the back.

“There is going to be a whole lot of kids and bikes and big cars and it makes a whole lot of sense to make a safe speed when kids and parents and cars are there.”


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