A section of high-risk highway on State Highway 3 between Hamilton Airport and Ohaupo is to be made safer with side-by-side passing lanes to be removed by the NZ Transport Agency.
The four-lane section of road will be remarked as three lanes, with room for a flush central median to separate oncoming traffic. A wire rope barrier will be installed at the central changeover point.
Passing lanes will be retained south-bound for 1km from the new roundabout being built at the SH3/21 intersection. Similarly there will be two lanes north-bound from Kaipaki Road for 1km.
Similar work was done on the same road closer to Te Awamutu last year.
The six-week job is set to get underway on 20 January and also includes 1.2km of major roadworks south of the new roundabout which is now under construction.
Line marking and wire rope installation will follow, with completion in late February. The roundabout project will be completed by late May.
The Transport Agency says speed restrictions will be in place during the work, and while the roundabout is built, so motorists on this route should add a few minutes to their journey times.
Transport Agency highway manager Kaye Clark says the road works, lane marking and barrier installation have been rolled together to save time and cost and minimise disruption.
“We also have the roundabout under way nearby so it makes sense to get all this work done at once,” she says.
“It’s all about creating a safer environment for road users. The new layout will provide greater separation between oncoming traffic,” she says.
“People will still have ample opportunities to pass, traffic turning into properties will have more room, and cyclists get a wider shoulder to ride on.”
There are few four-lane stretches of highway in the country without a median barrier and with direct access to properties.
“Last year we made similar changes on this stretch of highway further south and removed the side-by-side passing lanes. Despite some people’s initial misgivings this has improved safety and not affected travel times,” Mrs Clark says.
“We know it takes a little while to get use to a new layout and the need to plan when you can pass safely.
“Since we changed the layout and installed the 700m wire rope barrier near Jary Road in April last year there have been three strikes on the wire. So that barrier has saved three vehicles from crossing into the opposite lane.”
SH3 between Airport Road (SH21) and Kaipaki Road has seen many crashes over the years. Transport Agency records show 15 crashes in the past five years, including two serious.
During the work traffic will be down to single lanes in both directions. Work will be done during the day, avoiding peak times, and two-way traffic will be maintained at all times.