Govt drive for bet­ter roads

Gen­ter an­nounces $20 mil­lion to make state high­ways safer

Rotorua Daily Post - - Nation - Derek Cheng

Rum­ble strips, safety bar­ri­ers and wider shoul­ders will be in­stalled as part of a road safety pack­age to im­prove ru­ral high­ways in Gis­borne, Hawke’s Bay, Manawatu-Whanganui and the West Coast.

The next stage in the Safety Boost Pro­gramme — $20 mil­lion to up­grade 670km across 11 ru­ral state high­ways — was an­nounced yes­ter­day morn­ing by As­so­ci­ate Trans­port Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter.

“The Boost Pro­gramme in­cludes sim­ple safety up­grades that can be in­stalled quickly over the sum­mer pe­riod, such as rum­ble strips, road­side safety bar­ri­ers in high-risk lo­ca­tions, shoul­der widen­ing, and im­proved sig­nage,” Gen­ter said.

The tar­geted high­ways did not have the high­est lev­els of traf­fic, but were full of risky sec­tions such as sharp cor­ners and nar­row stretches, she said.

Rum­ble strips can re­duce fa­tal runoff-road crashes by up to 42 per cent, while shoul­der widen­ing at high risk sites can re­duce se­ri­ous crashes by up to 35 per cent.

“All driv­ers make mis­takes from time to time. Safety im­prove­ments like these stop sim­ple mis­takes turn­ing into tragedies,” Gen­ter said.

Work will start to­day and aim to be fin­ished by July.

Gen­ter said these im­prove­ments would be ad­di­tional to the 870km of up­grades in the Gov­ern­ment’s $1.4 bil­lion Safe Net­work Pro­gramme for high-vol­ume state high­ways, which hopes to save 160 lives and se­ri­ous in­juries by 2021.

Safety Boost has al­ready made up­grades — in­clud­ing al­most 2000km of rum­ble strips, 30km of road safety bar­ri­ers, and lower speed zones for high-risk in­ter­sec­tions — to roads in North­land, Taranaki, Manawatu¯Wan­ganui, Otago and Southland.

The road toll was 379 in 2018, the high­est since 2009 and much higher than in 2013, when it was 253.

Last April, Gen­ter said the Gov­ern­ment would look at adopt­ing a tar­get of zero deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries on New Zealand roads.

She said at the time the tar­get would be “au­da­cious”, but all road deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries were avoid­able.

The Gov­ern­ment has not for­mally adopted a zero tar­get, and it will be part of a con­sul­ta­tion process on road safety dur­ing March and April.

Gen­ter, who has said it would take decades to see a sub­stan­tial re­duc­tion in road deaths and se­ri­ous in­juries, has ver­bally clashed with the Na­tional Party over the best way to im­prove road safety.

Last elec­tion Na­tional promised eight road­ing projects — in­clud­ing Mill Rd in South Auck­land, Auck­land’s east-west link, and a Napier-Hast­ings four-lane ex­press­way — say­ing they are cru­cial to save lives and im­prove re­gional eco­nomic de­vel­op­ment.

The party has been push­ing for the projects ever since, in­clud­ing de­liv­er­ing eight pe­ti­tions — signed by more than 16,000 peo­ple sup­port­ing the high­way projects — to the trans­port and in­fra­struc­ture select com­mit­tee.

This sum­mer the party has put up hoard­ings on stretches of high­way be­tween Wells­ford and Te Hana (North­land), Otaki and Levin, in Te Puna (Bay of Plenty), and in parts of Can­ter­bury. The se­ries of hoard­ings near Wells­ford has three mes­sages:

“We know this traf­fic is a real pain”; “Na­tional was build­ing a 4-lane high­way here”; “but Labour can­celled it”.

The Gov­ern­ment has called the hoard­ings “cyn­i­cal pol­i­tics” that show sup­port for “a hand­ful of gold-plated ex­press­ways”. — NZME

Rum­ble strips are among $20 mil­lion in road safety mea­sures for 670km of ru­ral state high­ways an­nounced by As­so­ci­ate Trans­port Min­is­ter Julie Anne Gen­ter (pic­tured left). Pho­tos / File

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