Cambridge wants roundabout to stay

PROBLEM SPOT: The intersection of SH1, or Achilles Ave, and Shakespeare St pictured by Google Maps before the temporary roundabout was installed in January.
PROBLEM SPOT: The intersection of SH1, or Achilles Ave, and Shakespeare St pictured by Google Maps before the temporary roundabout was installed in January.

It's unlikely that a temporary roundabout, installed for traffic safety measures while a $1.1 million maintenance project is carried out on Cambridge's Victoria Bridge, will stay there permanently after the work is finished - at least in its current form.

That's despite public feedback and despite the spot at the intersection of SH1 and Shakespeare St, at the end of Ferguson Bridge, being named New Zealand's 35th highest-risk intersection by the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) last week.

The list showed that between 2003 and 2012 - while there was no roundabout there - two people died and 22 were injured, four seriously, in 17 crashes at the intersection.

Waipa District Council group manager service delivery Barry Bergin said on Friday that council had received a lot of positive feedback about the roundabout, which was installed in January to aid traffic flows during maintenance work on the 106-year-old Victoria Bridge.

The bridge work is scheduled to be finished next month, but lines of communication between NZTA and the council were open regarding the issue, he said, and those discussions were ongoing.

Like Cambridge residents, he said the council would like it to stay. But the decision was not a council one, he added, as all state highways were controlled by NZTA.

NZTA acting highway manager Michelle Te Wharau said it was not possible to leave the roundabout there permanently, at least not "in its current form".

On the high risk list, the intersection was labelled as having "an agreed plan in place", meaning measures would be taken to make it safer.

Te Wharau said completion of the Cambridge section of the Waikato Expressway in late 2016 was that "agreed plan". It is being viewed as an effective long-term solution to reducing risk at the intersection.

Significant feedback on the temporary roundabout had been positive, but the size and location made it challenging for large vehicles such as trucks and buses, she said.

"However, it is a temporary worksite which has been set up while Victoria Bridge is upgraded.

"Because Achilles Ave is also a key state highway, and any intersection needs to cater for all road users, the roundabout, as it is, is not seen as a long-term situation once the bridge is complete."

Te Wharau said NZTA was aware the intersection was historically a problem spot where drivers needed to exercise care.

Current data showed about 20,000 vehicles used that part of the state highway daily; 75 per cent of them vehicles passing through the area.

"The volume change anticipated when the Cambridge section [of the Waikato Expressway] is complete will significantly reduce the risk for drivers there."

But Bergin suggested a roundabout could be placed there on a more permanent basis in the future.

"Once the Cambridge Expressway is complete, the state highway will become a local road and will be given to council to manage," he explained.

"We're very conscious of the safety and traffic-flow issues and have already earmarked funding in our long-term plan to upgrade that intersection to a roundabout once it's under our control.

"That will have real benefits in terms of safety."