Safety upgrade in valley

SAFETY PLANS: Northland Highways manager Tommy Parker.
SAFETY PLANS: Northland Highways manager Tommy Parker.

Nearly $500,000 of safety improvements will be made to the Dome Valley section of State Highway 1 between Warkworth and Wellsford this month.

The announcement by the NZ Transport Agency follows its release of the preferred Puhoi to Warkworth northern motorway extension.

The agency is focusing on the corner just north of Falls Bridge, dubbed "suicide corner" by local emergency services because of the high number of crashes there.

It has had four fatal and 18 injury crashes in the past decade, NZTA Auckland and Northland State Highways manager Tommy Parker says.

Residents speculate this is a precursor to the Dome road being included in the highway improvements between Warkworth and Wellsford rather than a complete bypass.

Though not the preferred option, and with timing for the next stage of the northern extension still to be confirmed, the NZTA is not ruling out the possibility the valley may end up being used as part of the new highway.

"While our preferred option remains a separate, four-lane, off-line motorway between Warkworth and Wellsford, we are considering this alongside potential online projects to improve safety at locations with a high crash rate in the Brynderwyns and the Dome Valley," Mr Parker says.

"Until investigations are complete, it is critical that Dome Valley upgrades like this one at Falls Bridge continue."

The $493,000 month-long project is to improve the camber and alignment of two curves, widen the highway's shoulders, upgrade drainage and add new signs.

Welcoming the improvements, Wellsford volunteer fire brigade spokesman Jim Bowmar hopes it won't simply encourage people to travel faster.

"If it looks as if they can drive it faster I suspect they probably will," he says.

He's had years of cleaning up the mess after drivers failed to drive to the road conditions through the Dome Valley.

The improvements are the latest in a series of safety measures the NZTA, together with police, ACC and local government, have undertaken in recent years which have had a significant impact on reducing Dome Valley crashes.

These include reducing the speed limit to 80kmh, widening road shoulders, an electronic "curve warning" sign at Falls Bridge, rumble strips, no overtaking lines, police enforcement bays, and high skid resistant reseals of the highway surface.

But the Falls Bridge improvements will cause delays and drivers should allow more time for their trip as stop/go traffic management is operating through the work site.

The work is being done weekdays – although the final seal could be laid at night. No work will be undertaken during weekends, and the upgrade is expected to be completed by the end of May.

"We will do everything we can to minimise disruptions," Mr Parker says. "But we do ask drivers to be patient for their own safety and the safety of our contractors."

Rodney Times