Concerns raised over crossing plans

DANIEL BIRCHFIELD
Last updated 11:58 20/02/2014
crossing

PLAN CONCERNS: NZTA plans to install lights at near a North End shopping centre in Oamaru.

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North End business owners are relieved to see the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is taking action to remedy the troublesome shopping centre pedestrian crossing on State Highway 1, but some still have concerns about the project.

The agency recently announced plans to install a signalised pedestrian crossing, controlled by traffic lights, at the site of the North End shopping centre crossing and plans to have it operational by June.

While Frasers Four Square owner Brian Fraser, whose business sits next to the crossing, is all for making the crossing safe, he believes the location of the signalised crossing isn't ideal.

"I'm very disappointed to be honest," he says.

"The NZTA spent two days here going around the businesses and when they left we were quite happy because it looked like there might have been lights going on Frome St on the corner there."

Mr Fraser says more people cross the road between Frome and Clare streets to access the pharmacy and Lotto shop and thinks it would make more sense to install a signalised crossing there.

"Locals won't even use the crossing as it exists because it's too dangerous. If it was shifted to Frome St, more people would use it."

But the agency says pedestrian surveys have shown the busiest foot traffic area at the North End is the block north of Frome St, where the existing crossing lies.

NZTA Otago-Southland highways manager, Ian Duncan, says of the 75 public submissions received about the crossing 25 percent were in favour of it being in the vicinity of Frome St and Caledonian Rd.

"Submitters raised various alternative ideas they felt would improve road safety and ease traffic congestion in this area, including signalising the Frome St to Caledonian Rd intersection," he says.

"Signalising it isn't an option as the traffic light phasing would cause significant delays for highway traffic."

Owner of Arthurs Antiques Tim Arthur, whose premises is opposite Four Square, also feels safety is the most important issue but isn't convinced a signalised crossing is the answer.

"I can agree with the fact they want to put in lights, but I'm not sure it will solve the problem of safety. It's a speed issue, not concentration.

"Time will tell, but I have my doubts."

Accidents and close calls at the crossing are not uncommon and generally occur at peak traffic times.

Oamaru Police Highway Patrol Sergeant Pete Muldrew says the area "suffers" during times of heavy traffic.

"There has been quite a few accidents there. Around the time school closes and there are five or six blocks trying to get out of the intersections (onto the highway) people take risks so the signalised crossing will protect pedestrians and also create gaps in the traffic so people will have an opportunity to turn."

He says accidents often happen when trucks are parked on either side of the road near the crossing, which can make pedestrians "invisible" at times.

Mr Fraser and Mr Arthur will each lose a car park outside their respective businesses, as mechanisms need to be installed on opposite sides of the crossing to control the lights, according to the NZTA.

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Mr Duncan says business owners and local residents in the area will be given notice in advance of when the work will start which will allow any further concerns to be raised.

WAITAKI HERALD

- © Fairfax NZ News

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