Passing lanes blamed for Kapiti highway risk

TALIA CARLISLE
Last updated 11:42 06/12/2012

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Kapiti Observer

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Passing lanes are being blamed for the Paraparaumu to Levin highway being ranked as one of New Zealand's most most dangerous stretches of road, says NZ Transport Agency Wellington operations manager Mark Owen.

Combined with high traffic volume, the lanes can be deadly, he said.

Mr Owen spoke to the Kapiti Observer after the Paraparaumu to Levin State Highway 1 link had been named one the country's most dangerous roads in a new report.

Completed by the New Zealand road assessment programme, the report ranks Paraparaumu to Levin the sixth riskiest link in terms of crashes per kilometre, measured over a five-year period.

Mr Owen said driver frustration combined with merge points and high traffic volume on Kapiti-Horowhenua's section of the highway are linked to crashes.

"Typically we find that if there's a bit of driver frustration as traffic volumes build . . . the passing lane in itself might be okay but the merge point, that's where we end up having the crashes."

He said the KiwiRAP reports help the agency identify risks, like the Otaihanga to Waikanae passing lanes, which have been removed to improve the safety of that stretch of highway.

"Between Otaihanga and Waikanae we've taken out those passing lanes just to sort of mitigate that risk, because of some of the behaviour that we saw there, and the fact that there was a couple of fatalities."

More safety improvements will take place over the next 12 months in Kapiti, including changes to the intersections at Beach Rd from Paekakariki, and Otaihanga Rd.

A further review of speed limits between Waikanae and Paekakariki will take place, Mr Owen said.

Meanwhile the number of serious and fatal crashes between Paraparaumu and Levin has actually reduced by about a third over five years.

Mr Owen backed the government's controversial expressway running through the district to further improve road safety.

"The completion of Wellington Northern Corridor RoNS will of course deliver the most significant improvements."

Other improvements to the road between Paraparaumu and Levin have included reducing speed limits, closing higher risk passing lanes, and providing a variety of central median improvements such as barriers, wider medians and rumble strips.

The agency has installed pedestrian crossings in urban areas such as Otaki's puffin crossing, Mr Owen said.

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