NZTA announces safety improvements and new speed limits for SH1 Taupo Airport to Turangi

4 MinutesBy NZ Trucking magazineSeptember 10, 2020

New permanent speed limits, a variable speed limit in a school zone and infrastructure improvements are set to improve safety on sections of State Highway 1 between Taupo Airport and Turangi. 

The NZ Transport Agency has announced the revised speed limits on this road will take effect from 12 October 2020. Eight people died and 30 people were seriously injured in crashes on this stretch of SH1 in the 10 years from 2009-2018.

The current speed limits vary from 100kph along the rural open road sections to 70kph through settlements such as Waitahanui and Motuoapa. NZTA says some of the current speed limits on this section of state highway are no longer appropriate with the increasing number of vehicles, including heavy vehicles, driving through areas where people live or enjoy popular recreational sites.

Following a public consultation last year on the safe and appropriate speed limits for this road, NZTA has set a new variable speed limit outside of Te Kura o Waitahanui. A variable speed limit will lower the speed limit from 60kph to 40kph during peak school traffic times. The new variable speed zone will be approximately 350m long with two electronic signs on the road outside the school displaying the reduced speed limit. Variable speed limits are an enforceable speed limit.

“The new variable speed limit will provide a safer road environment around the school, reinforce driver expectations of the likely presence of children, and help encourage safe and active travel to school,” said director regional relationships Steve Mutton.

The NZTA is also investing in further safety improvements including widening the school entrance, improving footpaths and road markings, taking out roadside hazards such as a power pole, replacing school warning signs and making the road safer to cross outside the school.  These improvements are scheduled to take place over the summer.

During consultation, it was proposed to reduce the speed limit between Taupo Airport and Waitahanui from 100kph to 80kph. NZTA is currently considering installing a central median barrier from the Taupo Airport roundabout to the northern end of Waitahanui. The speed will remain at 100kph whilst this is being investigated. 

If this section of the highway is made safer by installing a safety barrier, it could mean the safe and appropriate speed can remain at 100kph.

“Speed is a factor in every crash. We all make mistakes, and we will never eliminate crashes, but speed can be the factor that determines whether you are killed, seriously injured or walk away from a crash unharmed. Mistakes are inevitable, but deaths and serious injuries aren‘t.

“Our priority is to make this road safer so everyone using it can get where they are going safely and reliably,” Mutton said.

NZTA will continue to update the community and road users about the safety barrier project and the final decision on this speed limit change as it works through the process.