Consultation was undertaken proposing to convert a range of lower speed limits introduced on parts of the Picton to Christchurch alternate state highway route under emergency legislation after the November 2016 Kaikōura earthquake to permanent limits.
Lower permanent speed limits were proposed because:
Consultation also included proposals to lower the speed limit on part of the Lower Buller Gorge and part of SH7a in Hurunui.
Neither road was part of the original emergency legislation but were included in the consultation as both sections of road feed traffic into the alternate route. Lower speed limits on both sections of road would bring speeds into line with the alternate route, creating a more consistent driving experience.
A range of speed changes are outlined here.
Almost 300 submissions were received from members of the public, and stakeholders representing communities along the alternate route, motorists, and the freight industry.
Public submissions supported permanent lower speed limits through most townships along the alternate route where speeds of 60km/h or 50km/h were proposed.
There was limited public support for permanent lower speeds on open road sections of the route where speed limits of 80km/h were proposed.
Stakeholders representing communities along the alternate route, motorists, and the freight industry on the whole supported lower speeds remaining on all existing sites on the alternate route while SH1 is being restored, but several requested speed limits be reviewed again once SH1 is fully operational.
Proposals to lower speed limits on a section of the Lower Buller Gorge and SH7a towards Hanmer that both link to the alternate route but were not included in emergency legislation received low support.
While there is not support for permanent lower speeds on all sites consulted on, reverting to pre-earthquake speed limits on some sites while SH1 remains closed would be irresponsible given the ongoing road safety risks that led to emergency limits being established in the first place.
On that basis the following decisions have been made:
Once SH1 becomes fully operational and traffic volumes have reduced to a stable level the Transport Agency will review speed limits on the alternate route again. Ideally this will be within six months of SH1 reopening, but it will depend on traffic volumes
The speed limits consulted on affect almost 500km and four state highways. However, because the different roads make up the entire route between Picton and Christchurch it made sense to consult on all the proposed changes at once, to ensure consistency and to minimise confusion.
Yes, the Emergency Rule (Land Transport Rule: Hurunui – Kaikōura Earthquakes 2016) expires on 18 June 2017 so will be replaced by the new bylaw on this date.
While there are delays on the alternate route caused by necessary roadworks, lower speed limits have only increased average journey time between Picton and Christchurch by less than two minutes.
To date $1.5 million has been invested in slow vehicle bays and pull-over areas on the alternate route, and work is underway now to construct 20 more of these areas. The Transport Agency will also investigate whether more slow vehicle bays and pull-over areas could be built.