Waka Kotahi is under attack from enraged motorists following the road transport authority’s decision to implement a programme of safety improvements at Tamahere, the day after it opened the Waikato Expressway Hamilton section.
The bottle necks at the SH1 Tamahere interchanges with Airport and Tauwhare roads – where four lanes suddenly merge into one and the speed limit goes from 110km/hr to 50km/hr – seem to have caught everyone except Waka Kotahi by surprise.
The organisation says it was always part of the plan once the expressway opened to upgrade the Tamahere section, so it met design and safety standards required for a 110km/hour speed limit.
We Say: “This was the quintessential example of Waka Kotahi raining on its own parade.”
But nothing The News can find on Waka Kotahi’s website confirms that. When the speed limit was introduced in 2017, the organisation said the higher speed limit applied from Cambridge southern to Tamahere interchanges.
For motorists it is more of the same – the bottlenecks at Tamahere have been going on for more than five years since construction started on the southern interchange.
The light at the end of the tunnel was the final opening of the expressway.
Social media exploded soon after the new 22km expressway section opened late on Thursday night and has been relentless ever since.
Despite it being school holidays when traffic is traditionally lighter during the week, queues form both sides of Tamahere.
Making the situation even worse was Waikato District Council’s decision to close the northern end of Newell Road forcing motorists to use the Tamahere interchange or take the longer SH3 route into Hamilton. The council, which says it knew about Waka Kotahi’s plans at Tamahere, has no plans to reopen Newell Road.
National List MP David Bennett said when his government signed off on the expressway, Tamahere had been built to Australian standards for 110km/hr.
“However, the reality is they had failed to complete major connection points especially at Tamahere.
“Motorists are rightfully angry and what could have been a significant opening is now soured by its practical failures.
“This failure has infuriated motorists and has created real safety concerns. When a 110 km/hour motorway of multiple lanes suddenly reduces to one lane, it’s an accident waiting to happen,” he said.
Waka Kotahi Infrastructure regional manager Jo Wilton said the Tamahere interchange opened in 1995 and was not up to 110km/hr standard.
The recent approval meant the work could only start now.
Work on the two lanes in each direction would be complete by October-November, she said.
“The safety improvements include the installation of crash-preventing roadside wire-rope barriers.”
While the temporary measures will cause delays, “the benefits of opening the Hamilton section of the expressway as soon as possible outweigh any temporary inconvenience,” said Wilton.
Meanwhile a section of SH1 between Karapiro Road and the SH1/SH29 intersection at Piarere will close from August 8 from 9am to 4pm for a week to allow tree felling and road surface repairs.
During the road closure, people will be detoured via Karapiro Road, Taotaoroa Road and SH29.
Over-weight and over-dimension vehicles will be stacked at either end of the worksite and let through at 11am and 1pm. Residents and businesses will have access to and from their properties throughout the day, as required.