The Government has announced a $1.4 billion, three-year plan to make roads safer.
The Safe Network Programme will include median and side barriers, rumble strips and shoulder widening on 870km of state highways. There will also be speed limit changes for those roads considered to be the most dangerous, as well as more speed cameras.
The programme will target an estimated $600 to $700 million of state highway safety improvements and $700 to 800 million of local road safety improvements.
Transport Minister Phil Twyford and Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter says the improvements are expected to prevent 160 deaths and serious injuries every year.
The first projects are expected to begin in 2019. The NZ Transport Agency will also speed up the time it takes to deliver safety projects by fast-tracking the approval process for standard, proven safety improvements.
Regions with the highest rates of deaths and serious injuries – Waikato, Auckland and Canterbury – will be prioritised in the first year of the programme. It will then be introduced in other regions including the Bay of Plenty.
Road Transport Forum Chief Executive Nick Leggett says road safety improvements should include the building of critical new highways.
“We welcome the Government’s investment in the safety of existing roads; it is nevertheless disappointing that there is still no commitment for critical new state highways which would drive productivity, reduce congestion and also improve safety. Sadly, this announcement looks like the ‘one pronged approach’ and it won’t make the waka go faster.
Nick Leggett said that for some key routes a modern four-lane highway is the only practical solution. The recently completed RONS projects such as the Waikato Expressway and State Highway 1 north of Wellington have proven just how safe these modern four-lane highways are.
“The RTF is very positive however about additional median barriers, shoulder widening and greater use of rumble strips, which are useful improvements. The RTF especially welcomes these upgrades on long-neglected local roads.”
He said it is also pleasing that there will be an investment in improving level crossing safety as there are hundreds of dangerous level crossings around New Zealand, many of which require significant re-engineering to make them safe for heavy vehicles.
“One significant project that will disappoint the freight industry and the local community in the Bay of Plenty is the Tauranga to Katikati upgrade, which has still to be prioritised by this Government. The road is one of the most dangerous in the country and is carrying ever-increasing traffic volumes. While some safety improvements will be made to the existing road the route desperately requires a four-lane highway with appropriately controlled access points and separation of opposing traffic.
“Other projects like Otaki to Levin, Christchurch to Ashburton and a new East-West Link are also required to reduce traffic congestion, improve the free flow of freight and reduce the risk of serious accidents.
“The Government’s investment is a good start but it should not come at the expense of new modern highways, instead it should go hand-in-hand with them,” says Leggett.
RTANZ welcomes all measures to promote safety, including driver education and enforcement. RTANZ will continue to push for local authorities and the Government to take members’ needs into consideration when planning roading changes.
More information about the Safe Network Programme, including a map, can be found at: www.nzta.govt.nz/safe-network-programm