Interim improvements carried out to SH3/SH37 intersection at Waitomo Caves turnoff


More improvements and additions to signage at the intersection of State Highways 3 and 37 (Waitomo Caves turnoff) have been carried out by the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) contractors recently. The Agency has been working with the Waitomo District Council, Police and other road safety partners to identify opportunities for improvements at the intersection which has been the site of two fatal crashes this year.

NZTA state highway manager, Kaye Clark, says the initial improvements have followed an inspection of the site and a review of its crash history by a team involving NZTA engineers and Police staff; plus independent inspections by two other specialists.

'We have had a temporary speed limit in the area since September 24,' says Mrs Clark. 'We have also followed this up recently with the installation of additional ‘Slow down, High Crash Area’ signs on October 12. The signs should provide an effective extra warning signal reminding people to always take care at intersections; while the speed restrictions will help reinforce NZTA advice to always drive to the conditions and drive at safe speeds.'

Mrs Clark says other improvements carried out since mid-October include:

  • upgrading the ‘STOP’ signs to larger ones and relocating the ‘Give Way’ signs for better visibility
  • replacing the double ‘keep left’ arrows on SH37’s central splitter island with a larger disc sign
  • installing two sets of yellow and black arrowed ‘chevron’ signs at the intersection which will be more easily seen from further back
  • installing a supplementary ‘Rotorua’ destination sign to help decision making at the intersection
  • installing a new ‘Waitomo Caves’ destination sign for northbound traffic turning into the left turn slip lane
  • adjusting road markings to reduce visual clutter
  • removing trees blocking visibility on SH37.

Mrs Clark says the Agency will also be investigating improved layouts for sight distances in relation to SH3, SH37, Mangarino Road and the Waitomo Caves Motel’s driveway entrances. 'Once these next stages of investigation are complete, we will work with Council staff and Police on a draft design for the work to ensure we get the best outcome possible from these further improvements.'

Mayor of Waitomo District, Brian Hanna, says it is pleasing to see some long overdue action at this intersection. 'In my view the slowing of the traffic on SH3 will be one of the key factors in making this intersection safer. The 70km restriction has been very beneficial, and we look forward to seeing further layout changes take place.'

Mrs Clark says communication with the community around these activities will be ongoing. 'Further consultation with the community and relevant authorities will also take place to determine a new, permanent speed limit to apply to the full length of SH37 and to the SH3 approaches to this intersection, but in the interim the 70km/h temporary speed limit on SH3 will remain.'