New roundabout, new headache at dangerous intersection
A new roundabout designed to make one of the South Island's most dangerous intersections safer has left truck drivers with "zero room for error".
After almost a year of construction, the multimillion-dollar roundabout at Spring Creek, between Blenheim and Picton, has opened to traffic.
But truck driver Mark Richardson said the New Zealand Transport Agency's solution made it extremely tight for heavy vehicles to turn.
"You legitimately need to get your front wheels over as far as you can to make the turn, to the point where there is millimetres in it from hitting the side of the road," he said.
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Fellow truck driver David Leask agreed the roundabout was tight, especially for larger rigs. "I've already had cones under the trailer, it's very tight," he said.
The intersection between State Highway 1, SH62 and Ferry Rd was one of the South Island's highest risk intersections.
NZTA revealed last month the final cost to upgrade the intersection totalled $4.3 million.
The project had drawn the ire of business owners in the area, who said in June the lengthy construction process was hurting their takings.
Junction Hotel and Bar owner Mike Pink could see the road from his business, and said some trucks looked too big for the roundabout.
"A lot of them can't get around properly," he said. "They're struggling to turn without hitting the bollards."
Road Transport Association Marlborough chairman Peter Heagney said he would wait until the roundabout was complete before passing judgement.
Traffic lights were the preferred option for many in the trucking industry, so it would be interesting to see how the roundabout fared, he said.
Construction on the roundabout started in October last year, but poor weather and unforseen ground conditions pushed the June completion date back.
Over the past 10 years, 32 people had crashed at the Spring Creek crossing, which was part of a major freight line for heavy vehicles travelling to and from Picton.
Spring Creek Vintners general manager Gus Altschwager said upgraded traffic management at the intersection was a welcome sight.
Altschwager was in a crash at the intersection five years ago, and said the roundabout would make Spring Creek easier for all drivers to navigate safely.
"It is much safer than it has ever been, we're just grateful it's actually happening," he said.
NZTA senior project manager Andrew Adams said traffic cones remained on the roundabout to protect the installation of road islands.
"As a result, it is a tighter space than it will be once completed for long and large vehicles like trucks to get around," he said.
The roundabout followed standard safety specifications in terms of design, he added.
NZTA network manager Frank Porter said final surfacing and signage were expected by the end of August.
"Crews have made good progress over the last month after resolving all the issues with underground services, soil contamination and detailed pavement design," Porter said.
"We thank the community and businesses most affected by this significant safety project for being patient as this project's timeframe was extended due to some of these unforeseen circumstances."
- The Marlborough Express