Immediate safety improvements for Cambridge to Piarere


It’s a green light for improvements to State Highway 1 between Cambridge and Piarere – meaning everyone using this road will be that much safer.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is implementing changes this month to improve this stretch of highway, which has seen a number of fatal and serious injury crashes.

“The community has been crying out for safety improvements on this stretch of highway, and we are delivering,” says David Speirs, Director of Regional Relationships for the Waikato and Bay of Plenty region.

“Every fatal or serious injury crash on the road is one too many and devastates the families and communities of all those involved.

“While our mahi on the longer term 16km expressway is progressing, and we have been working on more permanent safety improvements on the current SH1, there are things we can do right now to save lives. Probably the most influential will be the temporary reduction of the speed limit to 80km/h from 100km/h from north of Hickey Road to south of the Karāpiro Road/SH1 intersection.”

Other safety improvements Waka Kotahi will be implementing shortly include: 

  • Installing ‘High Crash Area’ signs north of Hickey Road and south of Karāpiro Road, and electronic warning signs – so people are aware of the upcoming risks.
  • Installing and improving rumble strips, hit sticks and edge marker posts so tired or distracted drivers can be alerted or discouraged from cutting corners.
  • Installing wide painted median strips between the end of the expressway and Fergusson Gully Road to provide more space between opposing traffic.

The temporary speed restriction will remain in place until the planned permanent safety infrastructure is installed. The wide painted centre lines are also an interim measure, while Waka Kotahi prepares to install flexible median barriers. While not as effective, wide painted median strips do provide significantly more separation between opposing traffic streams, and have been shown in New Zealand to reduce crashes resulting in deaths or serious injuries by up to 35%.

“Flexible median barriers are one of the best ways to save lives on our roads,” says Mr Speirs. “Up to 75% of the people who die or are seriously injured on rural roads have either had a head-on collision, or have run off the road, and the proven solution to preventing head-on crashes is to physically separate opposing traffic, using flexible median barriers.

“If someone loses control or drifts across the centreline, the result isn’t a deadly crash; instead, the steel cables flex, absorb the impact, slow your vehicle and keep it upright.”

More than 4km of flexible median barriers have already been installed between Cambridge and Piarere on SH1 and are proving highly effective. The barrier south of Fergusson Gully Road has been hit 40 times already. Without the barrier, any of these 40 incidences had the potential to be a head-on crash.

Starting in December, additional flexible median barrier will be installed, just south of Maungatautari Road. At the same time, the road will be resurfaced, and the dangerous short southbound passing lane will be taken out. Drivers accelerating to pass here often find themselves having to brake hard at the top of the hill when they encounter slower traffic negotiating the SH1/29 intersection.

Early next year, more flexible median barriers will be installed between the unnamed reserve where the current median barrier finishes, to past Kentucky Road. This will mean there will be a total of 7.7km of flexible median barriers installed from Fergusson Gully Road to near the SH1/SH29 intersection.

Designs are in process to instal further median barriers and other safety features from the end of the Waikato Expressway through to Fergusson Gully Road, including large and safe turnaround bays, and a roundabout for the dangerous and very busy intersection of SH1 and Karāpiro Road.

Part of the detailed design phase is consulting with the affected community. Waka Kotahi has been engaging with a number of people and organisations recently, including Ngāti Koroki Kahukura and Ngāti Hauā, the various District and Regional Councils, emergency services and freight representatives, as well as with landowners and other stakeholders.

This safety improvement work will be done in sections, but it is our aim to complete it within the next two years.

These safety improvements support our Road to Zero vision – a vision where everyone can get to where they are going, safely.

An information day will be held at the Cambridge Town Hall on November 17 from 1-6pm, which is an opportunity for those in the community to have a say about the proposed safety initiatives and the longer-term plans for the expressway, which include a walking and cycling component. Later this month there will also be an on-line survey on our website.

Cambridge to Piarere safer roads and roadsides

Cars driving along a road towards an intersection

Hickey Road intersection. ‘High Crash Area’ and electronic warning signs will be installed just north of Hickey Road and south of Karāpiro Road.