On the roads again

In Newsletter Editorial5 MinutesBy Gavin MyersSeptember 2, 2022

If there’s one thing we can count on to keep the Friday ‘ink’ flowing, it’s the deteriorating state of the roads and everything related to them. Truthfully, I try not to revisit the subject too often for fear of fatiguing myself – and you reading this. But it’s been five weeks since I last wrote something on the topic, so we’re probably overdue by now. Ignoring the problem doesn’t make it go away, so banging that drum until it too disintegrates is a must.

I’ll begin by picking up on Dave’s editorial from last week, in which he commented on issues with SH2 and SH3.

The SH2 Waihi to Tauranga project is a particular bugbear. The $1 billion project to “make road and safety improvements” has been ongoing for a few years now, and that’s probably fair enough – it’s a big job on a busy road, and it would cost far too much to employ an extra shift to get the job done sooner. Specifically, we’re talking about the $101 million upgrades to the Waihi to Omokoroa section, which last week Dave labelled a disgrace.

I’d add the term ‘money pit’. Driving the road this past week, I couldn’t help but notice one of the widened sections – completed less than a year ago – appears to be sinking already, and the seal through another widened and reprofiled intersection has lifted. Simply covering the ground next to the existing road with more chipseal is never going to work (and it looks like no effort’s been made at all). By the time the project is eventually completed, and all these little boo-boos have been revisited and redone, the road still won’t have the capacity to accommodate the increasing traffic volumes expected of it in the future. Cue round two…

Then there are the bridges – or, more accurately, pinch points – none of which have been widened to match the ‘new’ roads. I noticed this week that the Tahawai Stream Bridge now has a “40 when cyclists present” sign at either end. So, drivers have to more than halve their speed within metres of seeing a cyclist on this narrow bridge that sits in a blind curve? Widening the bridge is clearly not an option, so why, at least, has a separate adjacent crossing for cyclists not been included in the ‘upgrades’? For all that is holey (pun intended), this is a state highway! I’ll eat my keyboard if those signs don’t cause at least one accident.

Talking of bridges, this past week, the New Plymouth District Council issued a scathing press release about truck and tractor drivers causing damage to local bridges and tunnels. The Bertrand Road Bridge is mentioned specifically, and here I agree with the council. Drivers ignoring width restrictions and crossing the bridge to avoid taking a longer route should probably be met with fines for damage caused.

The council also mentions the Uruti Tunnel which, if I’m not mistaken, is part of the Forgotten World Highway, SH43. I happened to spend some time along this epic route last Christmas, and while very little happens on it, it’s also one of the only roads through the area. This means trucks will have to drive it at some point. And that means despite the 100 years of history between either end of the tunnel, it needs to be kept up to date and accessible by modern traffic. The same rules apply.

Next week, I have some business in the Far North. It’s been a while since I’ve gone much further north than about Puhoi, and I’ll cover a fair amount of ground while I’m there. I’m expecting to be shocked and horrified – Northland roads are notoriously poor.

Stay tuned for part two next week… Maybe.

Take care out there,

Gavin Myers