Headache over bypass options

Stephen Woodhead
Stephen Woodhead
Which should come first - improved safety or improved efficiency? That is the question Otago roading authorities are posing over the proposed two-stage, $52.6 million upgrade of State Highway 1 at Caversham.

The Caversham bypass, as it is known, is the biggest roading proposal in the $530 million, three-year Otago Regional Land Transport Programme, released yesterday by the newly-formed Otago Regional Transport Committee.

The programme includes the safety work as stage one, but committee chairman Stephen Woodhead acknowledged to the Otago Daily Times yesterday it could be argued efficiency should come first.

Stage one [the safety portion of the project] would involve a $31.4 million upgrade of Caversham Valley Rd from Barnes Dr to Lookout Point.

The improvements would include changes at the Barnes Dr intersection, the creation of four lanes from the intersection to Lookout Point, with a 3m median, a service lane for houses on the south side of the highway, an increase in the speed limit from 50kmh to 60kmh and a bridge over the highway at Lookout Point.

Stage two [the efficiency portion] would involve the spending of $17.4 million on widening, from two lanes to four, the highway between Barnes Dr and Andersons Bay Rd.

Mr Woodhead pointed out the safety portion attracted less national funding and required more regional funding.

"The interesting thing is, the safety portion is the bigger chunk of money and, clearly, there must be some safety issues driving that thinking, but a relatively smaller chunk of money will give us four lanes."

Asked why the committee had put the safety portion as stage one, Mr Woodhead said the committee's thinking was based on the legislation and Labour government policy at the time.

However, new Transport Minister Steven Joyce was sending out "different signals".

Last week, Mr Joyce referred to congestion, safety and economic growth as reasons why the Government was promoting upgrades of seven "roads of national significance".

Mr Woodhead said that being realistic, he had not expected the Caversham project to make it on to the Government list.

However, he regarded the existing two-lane highway between Barnes Dr and Anderson Bay Rd as "quite ridiculous", particularly when "we've got a fair chunk of our produce arriving into the city, and moving through to the port, down that motorway".

New Zealand Transport Agency regional director Bruce Richards told the ODT this week there was a "quick fix" to the safety issues at Lookout Point: "Just take away the intersection."

However, this would divide the city by doing away with the "connectivity" between adjacent suburbs.

Of the efficiency option, Mr Richards said, "We can do that pretty quick".

". . . we thought safety and connectivity would be more important but, if you look at it from an economic stimulus point of view, we've got money and we've got ability to do the four-laning sooner rather than later."

The committee proposes spending $13,648,115 on stage one of the project over the next three years, but Mr Woodhead said he would like to hear the public's view before the programme was finalised.

The public has until 4pm on May 1 to make submissions.

A final decision on funding proposals will be made by the board of the New Zealand Transport Authority before the end of July.

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