Traffic trial set to continue
Traffic problems have plagued central Matamata for months. Matamata-Piako District Council last week altered the median barriers and will extend the trial for another two months. Teresa Hattan reports.
In what has been described as a ‘‘ big and bold’’ move by the Matamata-Piako District Council, an attempt at mitigating the traffic woes in Matamata’s central business district, is now entering its fourth month.
After first being reported in the Matamata Chronicle in July, the median trial has sparked debate which looks set to continue.
Last Wednesday, MPDC staff and mayor Jan Barnes spoke at a Matamata Business Association meeting about the Broadway median trial.
A traffic engineer’s report on the trial was presented and submissions received from the public were discussed.
Early on Friday morning, changes were made to the Broadway median trial which now sees vehicles being able to turn right from Waharoa East Rd on to Broadway. All other barriers remain in their current place.
In the first instance, Barnes said the council had been big and bold with the trial. She said the council wanted to engage with businesses and the public around the proposal and changes.
‘‘We had some issues and we’ve stepped up and given it a try.’’
She said the council had had a lot of feedback, most from very passionate residents and ratepayers.
Of the 1074 submissions received, 90.4 per cent thought traffic flow and safety wasn’t improved while 89.5 per cent thought pedestrian safety wasn’t improved. A total of 91.5 per cent didn’t think the two medians should be permanently closed.
MPDC engineering officer Mike van Bysterveldt said staff had also received a large number of comments, many saying the closures had added to traffic congestion.
MPDC group manager service delivery Fiona Vessey said road traffic safety was the council’s priority.
‘‘ The aim of the trial is to improve traffic flow and safety on this section of Broadway,’’ she said.
With feedback from the first phase of the trial, many suggestions asked for a bypass to be constructed.
‘‘Traffic through Matamata has been increasing and until the State Highway 1 alterations are completed over the next four years we won’t know the effect that this will have on Matamata traffic flow,’’ MPDC chief executive Don McLeod said. ‘‘In the meantime we need to manage the best we
can, particularly before making any decisions about a bypass that will cost $23 million.’’
He also said a bypass wouldn’t be government-subsidised.
Barnes was also clear on her position around a bypass.
‘‘I don’t want a bypass. Half our town feeds off the traffic that goes through town.’’
Barnes said the council was dealing with what she considered to be a positive problem.
‘‘ Is volume of traffic a bad thing? We can put it [the road] back to status quo but we’ll still have problems,’’ she said.
Barnes wanted to get across two main points. She said the council was not able to open the righthand turn from Broadway to Waharoa East Rd.
‘‘ Congestion from Hetana St and the i-Site builds from this right-hand turn,’’ she said.
The other was the fact gridlocking at certain parts of the day was already occurring before the trial began last year.
‘‘We have four years until the Waikato Expressway, which runs from Pokeno to the Cambridge Golf Course, is completed. We won’t know what we will look like when that’s all operational.’’
Barnes said she and council staff had been asked ‘‘so many times’’ about diverting trucks off
Broadway, but the council could not stop this from happening. It wasn’t as simple as asking the trucks to use a different route, she said.
Many trucks, most displaying an ‘‘H’’ sticker, are directed by the New Zealand Transport Agency to only travel along state highways instead of local roads, which brings them along Broadway as it is a state highway.
But NZTA was sure there would be a definite shift in trucks travelling through Matamata’s CBD once the Waikato Expressway was completed.
Finally, Barnes said opening up the right- hand turn out of Waharoa East Rd gave the community another chance to have their say.
Where to from here?
Similar to the previous trial, this trial will be in place for a twomonth period.
In the long term, van Bysterveldt said it was possible Hetana St could be made into a one- way street with parking increased and the footpath and islands around the i-Site widened. Van Bysterveldt said this would come at a cost of about $40,000-$50,000. The council is now seeking feedback from Matamata businesses and residents on this latest trial.
TRIAL CHANGE: Vehicles can now turn right out of Waharoa East Rd. All other median barriers remain closed.