The NZ Transport Agency will begin consultation next week on a bylaw which will convert a range of temporary lower speed limits introduced on the Picton to Christchurch alternate state highway route after the November 2016 earthquake to permanent limits.
The lower speed limits were introduced on the alternate route (state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7) last year, under emergency legislation.Consultation also includes a proposal to lower the speed limit on a section of the Lower Buller Gorge that links to the alternate route. This road is not included in the current emergency rule.
NZ Transport Agency Regional Relationships Director Jim Harland says the lower speed limits were brought in as part of a wide-ranging package of safety measures to manage the risks associated with the significant increase in traffic using the alternate route while State Highway 1 remains closed for repair.
'As emergency speed limits can only legally be in place for six months, and State Highway 1 will not be fully restored until the end of the year, in order to keep the lower speed limits in place to maintain safety on the alternate route the law requires that these lower limits now be made permanent,' Mr Harland says.
Mr Harland says the Transport Agency will be seeking feedback on the proposed bylaw from councils, stakeholders, road user groups and local communities. While the proposed speed limits being consulted on will be permanent if implemented, Mr Harland says the Transport Agency will continue to monitor the route once SH1 is restored, and if required, review speed limits again.
'Our road safety engineers have fully reviewed speed limits on the route in recent months to ensure the proposed permanent limits we are consulting on are appropriate for road users and the communities living along it. These will be similar to the current emergency speed limits now in place.
'The alternate route is challenging to drive and since the Kaikōura earthquake, the volume of vehicles travelling on some parts of this route has quadrupled, with significant increases in the number of heavy vehicles using the route.
'Since the earthquake we’ve taken action to make sure the road remains safe for everyone travelling on it, and to ensure the safety of people living in communities along the route.
'This has included reducing speed limits on high-risk parts of the route - sections of open road that are narrow and windy, and at approaches to intersections and towns.
'The Government is also investing $60 million in upgrading parts of the route to make it safer and more resilient. This includes widening several sections of road, ongoing resealing work along the route, installing several new bailey bridges alongside existing one-way bridges, installing traffic signals on several one-way bridges, and using radars and webcams to measure traffic volumes and provide travel updates,' Mr Harland says.
The consultation period will take place between Monday 3 April – Wednesday 3 May 2017.
Information on the proposed changes, will be available at on the Transport Agency website from 3 April 2017.