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Public predominately positive about Bethlehem Township plans

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Seventy-eight per cent of people attending the State Highway 2 Bethlehem Township Improvements Project Information Days in Te Puna and Bethlehem this week indicated they were positive or neutral toward the project.

Seventy-eight per cent of people attending the State Highway 2 Bethlehem Township Improvements Project Information Days in Te Puna and Bethlehem this week indicated they were positive or neutral toward the project. 

The information days were well attended. Those who did attend took the opportunity to speak directly with NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) staff, engineers and planners to discuss their concerns and offer suggestions.

Simulation models showed the public what would happen to traffic flows under different scenarios - both present day and in 15 years time.  They were also shown how the village will look with improvements to urban design.

People who indicated they were positive toward the project tended to focus on finding a solution to long tailbacks in the mornings on SH2 coming in from the north and on Moffat Road in the evenings.  Some wanted better access to the village shops and most could see the present safety problems for drivers and pedestrians. 

People who expressed concerns about the project included some village retailers who were concerned about losing parallel parking on the north side of SH2, and the plans to have two pedestrian crossings.

NZTA’s Bay of Plenty State Highway Manager Rod James says, “We appreciate the retailers’ concerns and have endeavoured to retain as much parking as possible in the township. In terms of the crossings, the existing crossing caters mainly for school children, and the new mid block crossing in the centre of the village will provide for safer crossing between the two shopping areas – which in turn will benefit the retailers by enhancing access to their shops.” 
 
Attendees at the Bethlehem information day also expressed a strong focus on getting the Tauranga Northern Arterial built as quickly as possible.

Mr James says both the Bethlehem Township Improvements Project and the Tauranga Northern Arterial are advancing.  Geotechnical investigations will begin in early 2010 for the Northern Arterial that will provide essential information to progress this project.

“With the work required to design and build this project we don’t expect the Northern Arterial to open for at least 10 years, and so it is important to manage growing traffic and pedestrian demand through this area in the intervening time. Traffic is building at between three and six percent every year on that stretch of highway so we need to ensure the state highway is able to continue functioning safely and efficiently for local and through traffic.” 

NZTA modelling shows with the new West Bethlehem Roundabout in place traffic congestion will increase on the state highway and side roads, including the new link to Carmichael Road and on Moffat Road. The planned additional lane in each direction will alleviate these problems as well as providing the opportunity to introduce an additional pedestrian crossing.

Mr James says that while for some there were genuine concerns about aspects of the scheme, the evidence from the information days indicates there is broad support for this simple but effective set of improvements.

“It seems likely that Tauranga City Council will begin building the new West Bethlehem Roundabout early in the New Year.  Therefore it would be best for our NZTA project to work in tandem with that timing to ensure disruption during construction is kept to a minimum.” 

Mr James says while there has been a lot of speculation about this project, when the current design and the benefits of the project were explained, most people were happy with what they saw.

For more information please contact:

Julie Hannam
Regional Communications Advisor
T 64 07 958 7238
M  64 027 294 2649  
julie.hannam@nzta.govt.nz

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