Surprise over plans to upgrade new bypass

Taupo Bypass
STEPH RANGI/STUFF

Taupo Bypass

The Government is spending another $7 million to upgrade the Taupo Bypass, which was completed seven years ago at a cost of $110million.

Since then, two people have died on the road and there have been eight serious crashes.

The most recent fatality was in January this year. Nick Calavrias - former ceo of Steel & Tube and an officer of the New Zealand Order of Merit - was cycling the route when he was hit from behind. The driver later admitted to turning his head to look in the opposite direction and drifted off the road. He was convicted of careless driving.

The upgrade will widen the seven-year-old East Taupo Arterial Rd, between the Wairakei roundabout and the SH5, Napier to Taupo Road roundabout.

A flexible safety barrier will be installed down the middle of the road and rumble strips will be added.

However, the road will remain a single lane in each direction.

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The Taupo Times posted news of the highway upgrade to social media platforms on Wednesday, attracting more than 150 votes from locals.

More than 90 percent thought an upgrade was not needed. Others thought the work should have been done at the time it was built.

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Many commenters said Bulli Point, where SH1 south of Taupo slows to 25km/h around three cliffs, was in greater need of an upgrade.

"The bypass could do with a few tweaks, but there are FAR worse roads. SH1 Taupo to Turangi, sections of the Desert Road, Poihipi Rd interchange, the Napier-Taupo Road, the Paraparas [Whanganui to Raetihi]... The list could go on and on," commenter Kirsty Brown said.

Others asked why the work had to be done now, less than 10 years since the road was built.

"Why didn't they do this when they made it. Pretty sure it wouldn't have added $7m to the cost," commenter Scott Forsythe said.

Some, such as Ben Biddle, questioned why widening the road was necessary.

"The bypass is huge... If you can't drive on that basic stretch of road then you shouldn't be on the road at all," he wrote.

Associate Transport Minister Tim Macindoe said the upgrades were part of the Government's "Safe System Approach", which acknowledges that drivers can and do make mistakes.

The improvements would reduce the severity of crashes, he said.

"The upgrade will mean the road is more forgiving and crashes are less likely to result in deaths and serious injuries."

Loss of control and fatigue were factors in a number of the serious and fatal crashes, with vehicles crossing the centre line or running off the road.

The upgrade will begin in October and be completed in mid-2018.

The work will be done by the NZ Transport Agency because the road is a State Highway, rather than Taupo District Council, which manages local roads in the Taupo district.   

 - Stuff

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