Cambridge Edition

Stop ‘fiddling’ over fatal road: mayor


A mayor is calling for the Government stop fiddling and replace a killer stretch of Waikato highway before someone else dies.

The victim of the latest serious crash on the notorious stretch of highway, on November 18, was left in a critical condition in Waikato Hospital’s intensive care unit.

Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan said Waka Kotahi needed to stop ‘‘fiddling around’’ and secure funding to extend the Waikato Expressway from Cambridge to Piarere.

The agency is proposing a 16km four-lane expressway from the southern end of the Cambridge section to the intersecti­on of SH29/1 at Piarere, but there is no funding for constructi­on until after 2027.

‘‘I’m strongly advocating for the Government to listen to us and look at what is going on,’’ O’Regan said.

There were three fatalities on the stretch of highway to date this year, and six people seriously injured.

This added to the six deaths and 26 people who were seriously injured in the five years between 2017 and the end of 2021.

‘‘It’s been concerning for some time now, increasing­ly so,’’ O’Regan said.

The latest fatal crash was just before 5am on October 5. The driver of a van died after a collision with a truck-and-trailer unit, which left the truck driver in a serious condition.

It was the same area that claimed the lives of Rotorua ambulance officer Susan Cutler and Auckland man Deon Hadley when an Audi and ambulance crashed early on September 15.

O’Regan said her heart went out to family and friends of those who had died or been injured on the road.

‘‘How many more people will lose their lives there?’’

The agency was in the process of implementi­ng safety measures but O’Regan said she would hate for that work to distract from the need for the expressway extension to be prioritise­d.

‘‘We welcome any safety improvemen­ts, but we are desperatel­y frustrated by the situation.

There is a need for the Government to commit to funding.’’

Waka Kotahi’s director of regional relationsh­ips, David Speirs, said funding was not yet allocated for constructi­on of the 16km highway between Cambridge and Piarere.

The cost of the project, as estimated two years ago, would exceed $635 million, he said.

Officials would continue to seek funding, but it was unlikely to be available before 2027 at the earliest, he said.

The agency was currently in the ‘‘pre-implementa­tion phase’’ since the business case was completed last year.

This involved route protection, consenting, identifica­tion of compulsory property acquisitio­n and the preparatio­n of tender documentat­ion – which could take multiple years, Spiers said.

‘‘Route protection is a very important step to ensure we are ready to proceed if and when funding is made available.’’

The Government announced funding for this and the installati­on of the State Highway 1 and 29 intersecti­on in January 2020.

Speirs said the agency would not be in a position to start constructi­on until consenting and land purchase was completed regardless of funding.

In the meantime, the agency was making safety improvemen­ts to the stretch of highway.

This included the temporary reduction of the speed limit to 80kmh.

Other safety improvemen­ts included installing ‘‘High Crash Area’’ and electronic warning signs, as well as installing and improving rumble strips, hit sticks and edge marker posts.

A total of 7.7km of flexible median barriers would also be installed.

The road was to be resurfaced and the dangerous short southbound passing lane would also be taken out.

Data from Waka Kotahi showed alcohol and drugs were the biggest factor contributi­ng to crashes in the area, followed by people’s position on the road.

The Waikato Chamber of Commerce called the safety improvemen­ts a ‘‘wet band-aid on a gaping wound’’ and launched a petition to extend the expressway.

 ?? ?? Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan is calling for funding to get the Waikato Expressway extended south to Piarere.
Waipā mayor Susan O’Regan is calling for funding to get the Waikato Expressway extended south to Piarere.

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