OPINION: There's an old English joke that goes something like this: 'Last night several motorists reported there was a large hole in the M5 motorway. Road transport officials this morning said they were looking into it."
It was always good for a laugh, because apart from the obvious punchline, many of us identified with the underlying theme of just how long it takes for bureaucrats to get anything done.
Which brings us to the saga of the Waiwhakaiho traffic bottleneck. New Plymouth MP Jonathan Young sent out a media release saying the Government's investigation into solving the problems at New Plymouth's northern outlet should be completed by the end of the month. The key word there, of course, is "investigation".
The traffic problems at peak times for New Plymouth's northern outlet have been unacceptable for far too long. In last November's election it was a recurring issue for many considering their vote. They asked both Mr Young and Labour candidate Andrew Little what they would do about fixing it.
The inevitable soothing answers were readily given, but nine months later - so far - nothing has happened. Apart from the Government's investigation, of course.
In his release, Mr Young goes as far as saying a potential solution could be in sight, but the mooted solution is far from definitive.
A project to address the issues has been included in Taranaki's Regional Land Transport Programme for 2012-15. That is now being considered by its parent body, the New Zealand Transport Agency, for inclusion in its National Land Transport Programme from 2012-15, Mr Young says.
"The NZTA is currently investigating road improvement options to increase the flow of traffic through this area as an effective way to improve economic growth in our district and reduce traffic congestion that might otherwise impede emergency vehicles," he says in his release.
Before anyone gets too excited, Mr Young added the investigations had been under way for nine months "and are on track for completion in late August".
It may be taking it too far to call the traffic jams a 'ticking time bomb" but the inability of emergency vehicles to get through the traffic jams could have dire consequences.
That's why we all have the ultimate vested interest in the outcome of the "investigations", but with a limited, contestable fund and the inflexible "cost-benefit ratio" criterion to be applied, there is no certainty of anything actually happening.
South Taranaki residents also continue to wait in frustration. The festering eyesore that is the Normanby overbridge continues to exist as a grim memorial to the tragic crash of seven years ago when three young people died after their van was hit by a drunk driver.
A lower speed limit for cars approaching is the only visible change made in the intervening years and the time for action, rather than investigations, is now for both south and north Taranaki locations.
News announcing work is starting on those projects would indeed be well received.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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