School tries again to make road safe

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 07:25 28/03/2014

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Longburn Primary School is set to have another crack at improving the safety of the state highway that runs past its gate.

Principal Jo Emerson said the school community wanted the speed limit on State Highway 56 through Longburn reduced, at least immediately before and after the school.

Palmerston North City Council had reduced speed limits on Longburn's side streets as part of a bylaw review last year, but a plea from the school for help with the state highway had gone unheeded by the NZ Transport Agency.

Mrs Emerson said she also wanted a crossing for students to get over SH56.

"We're about to take it up again, we're hoping council would throw a bit of weight around with the NZTA, council were very supportive of something happening last year.

"We get horrific sunstrike in the morning at certain times of the year and motorists travelling into Palmerston North must find it extremely difficult to see anything, let alone pedestrians crossing the road, once they get to the Longburn side of the overbridge."

A new guide book released by NZTA, the Safer journeys for rural schools guide, could help though Mrs Emerson said its production was a surprise to her until the Manawatu Standard contacted her.

The main guide provides technical guidance for road controlling authorities and engineers so they can assess risk and identify the most effective solutions to improve road safety around schools.

The companion Guidelines for school communities is targeted at schools, boards of trustees and parents. It lists common road safety issues for schools, provides a short guide to help communities to identify the risks at their school, and then presents a range of effective solutions.

"I can't remember seeing any info pass my desk (mail or email) regarding the consultation around this document.

"This is the first time I have seen it," she said after being emailed the document.

"We will, as a school, be able to now utilise this to communicate our concerns in their language.

"The toolbox makes for interesting reading . . . we still just have the ‘standard sign'," she said.

"We will be approaching NZTA again in the near future to reiterate our concerns."

Bede Gilmore, principal of Opiki School further south on SH56, said the rural schools guide was also news to him.

When Opiki sought to have the speed limit reduced past the school last year the NZTA was "reluctant" to help, he said.

The electronic signs that reduce the speed limit before and after school were approved only after the school approached Otaki MP Nathan Guy for assistance, Mr Gilmore said.

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The signs had been operating well, Mr Gilmore said, and the school was lucky its main gate was on a side road, unlike a lot of schools near state highways.

The rural schools guide would make it easier for schools dealing with road safety issues, he said.

The Automobile Association has welcomed the release of the guide.

"Rural school safety is an important issue for many rural communities, especially concerns about traffic speed near schools on open roads," AA policy manager Simon Douglas said.

- Manawatu Standard

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