The proposal to reduce the open road speed limit on the section of State Highway 1 just north of Blenheim could be a solution to a serious safety problem in the area. At least, on the surface.
The section road, which has a high traffic count with ferry traffic, is between the Opawa River Bridge and Spring Creek.
It has a series of streets and lanes going off to the west. Vickerman St and Aberharts Rd are both relatively busy access routes to Grovetown, while Fell St and Ross Ln and Knights Ln are smaller streets with lighter traffic.
The main trunk rail line runs alongside SH1, creating a level crossing on each of these streets. So immediately after turning off the highway, watching out for other traffic as they go, the driver immediately has to be ready to check for trains. The same thing applies in reverse order for traffic heading on to the highway.
These streets share other traps for the unwary motorists. There is little room for traffic to pull over, either in the middle of the road or on the verge as they wait to turn off SH1, and they have almost no room to wait if a train is passing through.
It all adds up to a major crash waiting to happen and drivers who use those streets can take credit for the care they have taken to avoid that possibility.
But they are growing tired of waiting for a solution and are concerned the risk will rise significantly in Fell St when the new Rangitane Cultural Centre opens.
They suggest dropping the speed limit of SH1 south of Spring Creek from 100kmh to 70kmh, even just until other improvements can be made to road designs. Council officials agree that reducing the speed would be a good start.
Speed reductions are unlikely to be the whole answer, and could give road users and people living in the area a false sense of safety. Drivers turning off and on to SH1, assuming that all drivers will take the same care as themselves, could quickly wind up in trouble if they misjudge the speed of an oncoming car.
The real solutions to this problem are likely to be more complex and expensive, but in the meantime all drivers should take extra care to look for turning traffic along that route.
- The Marlborough Express