Butter Factory Corner's reputation as a difficult and high risk intersection is set to become a thing of the past, with the NZ Transport Agency kicking off construction on a safety makeover for the State Highway 1 (SH1)/Alabama Road junction in Blenheim.
Marlborough Roads is undertaking the work on behalf of the Transport Agency, and its manager Frank Porter says the $1.1m safety overhaul will be welcome news to the local community, wine, trucking and tourist industries, and all other motorists who rely on this route.
Mr Porter says a number of crashes have occurred over the years, leading the Transport Agency to purchase the old butter factory to remove a visibility hazard and create room to add in much-needed safety features. A range of safety improvements have already been made, including lowering the speed limit and adding barriers and better warning signs, but the recent acquirement and demolition of the old butter factory enabled the progression of this comprehensive overhaul that will complete the job.
The new intersection will provide a left hand slip lane, a right hand turning bay, and 25 metres queuing distance for drivers waiting on the highway to cross the railway line at Alabama Road.
The sweeping curve on SH1 will also be straightened to make it fit in better with the overall road, and less of a surprise for motorists.
"It's a really tricky intersection, because there's a sudden, sweeping curve to contend with, limited space for different turning manoeuvres, and it also has the main south island rail line running parallel to the highway at the intersection. There has also been the problem of inadequate stacking distance between the rail line and the highway, which meant drivers didn't have enough space to queue safely."
"Improving this important intersection will reduce the risk of crashes, and provide drivers - especially the community, tourists, and the wine and freight industry - with safer journeys and much-deserved peace of mind."
Mr Porter says the upgraded intersection will also provide efficiency gains for freight operators who rely on this route.
"We're pleased that the work will be carried out by local workers, with the construction being undertaken by Fulton Hogan and the design by Aurecon, from offices located here in Blenheim."
Mr Porter says the improved intersection is expected to be completed by Christmas, just in time for the busy holiday season.
Work will at first involve moving services, and motorists will soon see construction kick off to reshape the road itself. Traffic management will be in place, and while Marlborough Roads says contractors will endeavour to keep delays to a minimum, motorists are thanked for their patience and care.