Northern corridor improvements
The northern access to Taupō town centre will undergo a number of improvements, including the installation of traffic signals at the intersection of Norman Smith Street and Wairakei Drive.
Improving safety, particularly for pedestrians and cyclists, was the main driver for the decision that will also see traffic calming measures implemented, minor changes to the Poihipi Road and Wairakei Drive intersection, and to complete the widening of the shared path on Control Gates Hill.
While not expected to solve all the congestion issues, particularly during busy holiday and event times, the work is expected to help improve travel times for those travelling from the north into the central business district.
The design work was completed following an expert engineers’ report on solutions and consultation with the community as part of the Long-term Plan process. A sum of $717,000 was allocated to the project in the Long-term Plan, and this was followed by an additional $233,000 approved to complete the full project once the full scope of the work was known.
Norman Smith Street and Wairakei Drive intersection plan
The traffic signal design would use the latest technology and would include a ‘resting green phase’ to keep traffic flowing on Wairakei Drive when there was no waiting traffic on Norman Smith Street.
There would also be two right turning lanes on to Wairakei Drive from Norman Smith Street and signals to stop traffic for waiting cyclists and pedestrians. There would also be access improvements for those using Pois Road off Wairakei Drive to access the river.
Project phases and timeline
The project is scheduled to start in early May. Most of the work will be done between 6pm and 6am and the noisy work will be scheduled for early evening, to minimise the affect on residents and keep our contractors safe.
We hope to have the work completed within 10 weeks, weather permitting.
The first phase of the project is nearing completion, with the gateway into town on Wairakei Drive sporting a new look.
The northern end of the passing lane which currently runs up Control Gates Hill has now closed to allow work on the Huka Falls Road intersection.
The partial passing lane closure will mean vehicles travelling north on Wairakei Drive from the Norman Smith Street intersection will have less time to pass uphill traffic and get back into the left lane in the new 50kmh zone. The closure will allow contractors to safely complete the minor alterations and improvements around the Huka Falls Road intersection.
Currently contractors are working in daylight hours on both the gateway and the Huka Falls Road intersection. Most of the other three phases will be completed at night.
Detours to aid Norman Smith Street work
Overnight detours will be in place around the Norman Smith Street and Wairakei Drive intersection from Monday, June 3 as the next phase of traffic improvements to the northern entrance to Taupō gets underway.
The detours will be in place to enable two sections of road to be closed overnight at different times: one is the section of Wairakei Drive from Norman Smith Street to Poihipi Road and the other is Norman Smith Street.
At this stage, detours will be in operation from 6pm to 6am daily until the work is completed in August.
Why won’t there be a cycle lane going downhill?
The road is not wide enough to include a downhill cycle lane. If a cyclist chooses to stay on the road they will be able to use the shoulder. A shared path for pedestrians and cyclists runs alongside the road can be used by cyclists who prefer to stay off the road. On road cyclists will need to keep within the 50kmh speed limit.
Why is the passing lane being removed?
The area is now a 50kmh speed zone, and passing lanes do not exist in these zones as all traffic will be travelling at a similar speed given the new limit. For particularly slow vehicles, there will still be a pull over area and shoulder to use.
Why will there be two right turning lanes out of Norman Smith Street?
This is to allow more traffic to turn out of Norman Smith Street during each green light phase.
Won’t this just mean more congestion backing up before the bridge?
A limited number of vehicles will be able to travel during each green light phase which should align with the number that can continue over the bridge and therefore help with traffic flow. We will monitor this through a traffic camera being installed and can adjust phases to best suit the traffic flow.
Why don’t we just build a second bridge?
A second bridge is still an option and we will be undertaking a feasibility study into its construction to be completed by June 2020. The bridge project will then be added to the next Long-term Plan if approved by the council.
Why reduce the speed to 50kmh?
This speed was identified as being safe and appropriate by following the new NZTA speed management guidelines and also matches the speed limit of adjoining side roads.