The Taupo District's iconic single set of traffic lights is getting an upgrade to improve pedestrian safety and more efficiently manage traffic flows.
The existing lights were installed in 1991 and control the flow of thousands of vehicles through the intersection of Tongariro Street, Heuheu Street and Story Place every day. With the growing number of people using the intersection both in vehicles and on foot, council is upgrading the lights and the electronic system that runs them.
Infrastructure manager Denis Lewis said the new and improved lights would feature turning arrows, pedestrian countdown timers and a 'Barnes Dance' traffic signal.
"The Barnes Dance concept, which is named after traffic engineer Henry Barnes, lets pedestrians cross the intersection in all directions, even diagonally, by stopping all vehicles with red lights.
"While the traffic lights have previously allowed vehicles to turn after giving way to pedestrians, turning vehicles will now be prompted to turn on green arrows only, with all vehicles stopped to allow a pedestrian-only crossing phase. A countdown timer will also inform pedestrians how long they have to cross."
"These improvements will make the traffic lights much safer for all users. We will be asking motorists and pedestrians to take care at the intersection until they are used to the new phasing and turning arrow changes."
Mr Lewis said special sensors in the road's surface used to detect vehicles would also be upgraded, allowing the signals to adapt and change to suit the volume of traffic.
"The signals' operation will be controlled by a transport operations centre which perform real time monitoring and optimising of traffic lights throughout the Bay of Plenty. They are able to remotely adjust the lights at any time to ensure the most efficient phasing of signals."
Preliminary work has recently taken place to replace old cables and to install new LED lamps that consume eight times less electricity and last 20 times longer than the previous quartz halogen lamps. The next stage of work to install new lights will take place over the next two weeks, with the new signals set to be working from the end of June.