‘Please slow the (truck) down’

Waikato Times Weekend - - FRONT PAGE - LIBBY WIL­SON

Three frus­trated city coun­cil­lors are urg­ing driv­ers at a north­ern Hamil­ton in­ter­sec­tion to slow the ‘‘truck’’ down.

The trio or­gan­ised a black-and­white billboard for Ro­to­tuna’s Thomas Road and Gor­don­ton Road in­ter­sec­tion as a stop­gap mea­sure – a vari­able speed limit around the road is ex­pected to be in place in a cou­ple of months. The sign reads, ‘‘Slow the _______ down’’, with the blank filled with a pic­ture of a truck.

The T-junc­tion con­nects a 50kmh zone (Thomas Rd) with an 80kmh ru­ral thor­ough­fare (Gor­don­ton Rd) and East Ward coun­cil­lors Mark Bunt­ing and James Cas­son say they hear of crashes or near misses ev­ery week.

They got frus­trated with slow progress on a speed change and, with West Ward Cr Dave Macpher­son, have piled on the pres­sure with a pub­lic mes­sage to mo­torists.

But coun­cil is work­ing with the NZ Trans­port Agency on a plan in­volv­ing sen­sors and elec­tronic speed signs, which would to bring the speed down to 60kmh when there are turn­ing cars.

People leav­ing Thomas Rd of­ten pull out into Gor­don­ton Rd with­out re­al­is­ing cars are ap­proach­ing at 80kmh, Bunt­ing said.

‘‘It’s kind of a per­fect storm . . . They go into what they think is a 50kmh gap and it’s ac­tu­ally an 80kmh gap, and wham.

‘‘A lot of people are call­ing for round­abouts and traf­fic is­lands ... that’s huge money and huge time and we haven’t got that.’’

In June, Hamil­ton City Coun­cil com­mit­ted to bring­ing deaths on its roads down to zero and coun­cil­lors are tak­ing that se­ri­ously, Bunt­ing said.

Re­ports of near misses at the in­ter­sec­tion come in ev­ery week, said Cas­son, a for­mer po­lice of­fi­cer.

‘‘Last week, we had two people quite badly hurt here.

‘‘[Res­i­dents] are go­ing ‘What the hell are you guys do­ing?’’’

‘‘We have been try­ing to get ac­tion done for quite a while, but then you hit the brick wall – staff want to get it done but then they’ve got the bu­reau­cracy.’’

They aren’t blam­ing staff, Bunt­ing said, but some­times coun­cil­lors have to ‘‘rat­tle a few cages up­wards’’.

Nor­mally it’s a four- to five­month process to change speed lim­its, said Macpher­son, who chairs coun­cil’s growth and in­fra­struc­ture com­mit­tee.

In this case, the NZTA looks likely to agree to a vari­able Gor­don­ton Rd speed limit, which would ex­tend 150m on each side of the in­ter­sec­tion, he said.

The plan will be on the agenda for the August 1 growth and in­fra­struc­ture meet­ing.

‘‘We ac­tu­ally like the idea of the flash­ing vari­able sign,’’ Macpher­son said. ‘‘That will draw more at­ten­tion to it than just an or­di­nary old 60kmh sign.’’

The process is also sev­eral months quicker than the usual one, and he be­lieves the dif­fer­ence is ‘‘driven by coun­cil­lors say­ing this is an ab­so­lute pri­or­ity’’.

Coun­cil dropped Gor­don­ton Rd’s speed limit to 80kmh sev­eral years ago and made mi­nor im­prove­ments at the in­ter­sec­tion in 2016, op­er­a­tions man­ager for city trans­port Robyn Denton said.

Other speed limit al­ter­ations for the city are go­ing through the usual process – which re­quires chang­ing a by­law, pub­lic con­sul­ta­tion, hear­ings and adop­tion – and could come into ef­fect around Jan­uary.

‘‘For [Gor­don­ton Rd], be­cause it’s an ap­proved process by NZTA, they can do it through a gazette no­tice. So we’re hop­ing to be able to . . . have some­thing in place within a cou­ple of months,’’ Denton said.

The lower limit will be legally en­force­able and NZTA will mon­i­tor its use to pick up tips for other sites around the coun­try.

NZTA said in a state­ment that it was work­ing with the Hamil­ton City Coun­cil on the pro­posal.

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