Highway black spot to get upgrade

WIDER ROAD: Improvements are to be carried out on State Highway 57 between Opiki and Shannon.
WIDER ROAD: Improvements are to be carried out on State Highway 57 between Opiki and Shannon.

A narrow and windswept crash black spot in Horowhenua is to be widened, with roading officials working on ideas to improve safety.

The relatively straight stretch of State Highway 57 northeast of Shannon is signposted as a high accident area. In the past, high winds on the road have been enough to blow trucks over on their side, as happened in July 2011 when gusts of about 110kmh ripped through the region.

A year earlier Yefang Jin, 26, of Shanghai, China, died when the van he was travelling in crossed the centre line and plunged off the road, while Hilary Ruth Drawneek, 64, was killed in a separate accident when she crashed into a power pole and her car burst into flames.

In 2008, truck drivers Benjamin Winiata, 67, and Ben Skinner, 30, died when their trucks collided on the stretch of road.

NZ Transport Agency spokesman Anthony Frith said roading officials were designing changes to the road that would widen it and make it safer. Mr Frith said drivers who lost control would get more of a chance to "correct" their vehicles. "It will also create more space for cyclists."

No decision had been made about whether a "guard rail" would be built between the road and a ditch, which in the winter fills with water.

Mr Frith said the new road layout was expected to be finalised by November.

Meanwhile, repairs to another troublesome stretch of Horowhenua highway have been completed.

The NZ Transport Agency started an upgrade to the section of SH1 north of the Manakau rail overbridge two weeks ago.

The $135,000 project was scheduled to be finished last Friday, but the storm that swept the country last month meant the traffic management crew had to help with repairs elsewhere. Upgrades include nearly half a kilometre of guardrail, or protective fencing, which has doubled what is already there, and work to improve driver visibility.

The roadworks are near a known black spot, where last month a two-car crash caused long delays after a car crossed the centre-line and collided with another, putting a 58-year-old man in Palmerston North Hospital with serious injuries.

The month before two men were killed in a head-on collision near Manakau.

An $800,000 project on SH57 near Linton to widen the road and add a right turning bay was going well, Mr Frith said.

Contractors have been working on the stretch of road since May and are due to be finished next month.

Manawatu Standard