The NZ Transport Agency is proposing to lower the speed limits on a section of SH2 with a history of fatal and serious injury crashes.
The proposals are part of the NZTA's effort to create a safer highway and reduce the number and the severity of crashes on Waikato roads.
Under the proposals, speed limits will reduce from 100km/h to 80km/h along the majority of the 32km stretch of State Highway 2 between the SH1/2 interchange near Pokeno and the SH2/25 intersection near Mangatarata.
The exceptions will be the 6.2km length from Mangatawhiri Bridge to Golf Road, which will remain at 100km/h, and 1.8km through the Maramarua township, where it is proposed to drop the current 70km/h speed limit to 60km/h.
A five-week consultation period with local residents and road users on the proposals gets underway today so that any changes can be introduced ahead of the busy holiday season when traffic volumes on SH2 nearly double, from 13,000 vehicles per day to up to 24,000, further increasing the crash risk to motorists.
In announcing the proposals, the NZTA's Hamilton State Highways Manager Kaye Clark says this stretch of highway has experienced a disproportionately high number of fatal and serious crashes, with 13 people dying and 22 being seriously injured in the past five years alone.
She says the lowered speed limits are intended to help reduce the likelihood of fatal and serious crashes and achieve safer journeys for everyone travelling the highway.
"We know that speed remains one of the major factors contributing to the alarming record of deaths and serious injuries on this stretch of highway, and lowering speeds has a significant and immediate potential to save lives.
"With good reason, the community living near the highway has been calling for lower speed limits to be introduced."
Mrs Clark says the proposed changes will immediately reduce the crash risk, and based on historical crash data, the changes have the potential to prevent up to 10 deaths and 15 serious injuries from crashes over a ten year period.
Based on existing travel speeds being reduced to the proposed speed limits, the total journey time over the 32km will increase by less than two minutes.
"We are confident that people will be very happy to trade an extra two minutes of travel time for a safer overall journey."
Mrs Clark says managing speed is only one of many responses to creating a safer highway and that other improvements to the road environment, designed to significantly reduce crash risk and the severity of crashes, are being planned as a priority under the Government's Safer Journeys strategy. The full extent of those safety improvements will be confirmed after further investigations are completed.
"In the meantime, our immediate priority is to make this stretch of highway safer as soon as possible so everyone using State Highway 2, can enjoy safer journeys." she says.
Community consultation commences: 19 September 2011
Consultation closes: 21 October 2011
Any changes to speed limit actioned: Mid-December 2011
National Land Transport Plan (NLTP) release: September 2012.