Cries for ac­tion about ac­ci­dent hot spot


On a mid-De­cem­ber day, Tony Wash­bourn was driv­ing a truck through Mange­mangeroa Gorge in East Auck­land. The out-oftowner says he took stock of the sweep­ing cor­ner, wet road, the 80km/h sign and warn­ing ar­rows. As he drove through the cor­ner the back of his truck slid into a bol­lard then across the road into the side of the bridge.

Wash­bourn’s part­ner was in­jured in the ac­ci­dent and last month he ap­peared in the Manukau District Court. He was con­victed of care­less driv­ing caus­ing in­jury, but not dis­qual­i­fied from driv­ing. He says the con­vic­tion was ‘‘a prag­matic thing to agree to as I have em­ploy­ees and a grow­ing busi­ness to op­er­ate, so not los­ing my li­cence was a plus. Oth­er­wise I would have been happy to fight on.‘‘

Wash­bourn be­lieves there’s some­thing fun­da­men­tally wrong with the bridge’s road de­sign.

‘‘I’ve driven over one mil­lion miles in the United States in five years - semi-trail­ers in snow, ice, Hur­ri­cane Ka­t­rina, and tor­na­does with­out in­ci­dent. As soon as it hap­pened my first thought was why?’’

He says dur­ing his court ap­pear­ance, the Auck­land Coun­cil ac­knowl­edged a drain fre­quently blocks, which has cut out a nearby drive­way and un­der­scored the road­way. A road en­gi­neer also told him the cam­ber was wrong and the turn on to the bridge is too tight.

The bridge has long been a lo­cal talk­ing point.

First con­structed in the 1860s, and re­built in the 1880s and 1930s, the nar­row con­crete bridge spans Mange­mangeroa Gorge.

One lo­cal says they’ve at­tended at least 10 ac­ci­dents in halfa-dozen years and says ‘‘they all hit the bridge’’. Plas­tic or­ange fenc­ing is cur­rently ca­ble-tied over two size­able holes punched out by crashes.

The lo­cal, who did want to be named, be­lieves there are a num­ber of rea­sons why so many driv­ers hit the bridge, in­clud­ing sur­face wa­ter and the tight an­gle at both en­try points. They say a ‘high crash area’ sign would be a fea­si­ble op­tion.

‘‘Surely, some­thing. Why does some­one have to be killed be­fore they do some­thing about it? Sig­nage is cheap com­pared to re­build­ing a bridge.’’

Another neigh­bour has at­tended so many ac­ci­dents they’ve pur­chased a set of high­vis­i­bil­ity vests and cones. They be­lieve the crashes are due to care­less driv­ing and hu­man er­ror. Oth­ers say the bridge was never de­signed to carry buses and trucks and they should all de­tour through Flat Bush and Sand­stone Road.

Fig­ures from Auck­land Trans­port show that be­tween the start of 2010 and end of 2015, there were six recorded crashes on or near the bridge. One re­sulted in se­ri­ous in­juries. Be­tween the start of 2016 and May this year, 17 crashes had been re­ported 650m ei­ther side of the bridge. They were all ei­ther mi­nor or non­in­jury in­ci­dents.

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