In the past we’ve heard from the community that changes to this section of state highway are needed to make it feel safe and improve access for all road users.
The safety features of a road and the speed vehicles travel on it influence both the risk of a crash and whether it is survivable. Speed limits need to reflect the risk of the road.
The speed limit at present is 100km/h along the majority of the route, with 70km/h through Longburn and 80km/h through Ōpiki.
In the five years between 2017 and 2021, there were over 100 crashes on this route, involving five people losing their lives. Many others were injured. Making sure speeds are safe is one of the quickest and most effective ways we can prevent deaths and serious injuries. Speed limits need to reflect the risk of the road.
SH56 through Ōpiki sits on top of an old swamp and it is known to be a bumpy drive. There are also roadside hazards including power poles, large trees and deep roadside drainage ditches meaning this road has an increased risk of run-off road crashes.
This road is used for everything from commuting, to freight, to getting to school each day. There are two school communities along the route, one with a direct entrance off the state highway. Reducing the speed means other road users including pedestrians and cyclists will be kept safer.
This section of road has previously undergone infrastructure improvements including installation of guardrail and widened sections of road where possible. We spend around $150k per year on maintenance of the road and it receives regular surface levelling.
These safety improvements will reduce the likelihood of someone having a crash, however, we know that even the best drivers sometimes make mistakes and reducing the speed also reduces the risk of death or serious injury when a crash does happen.
There is a shared pathway from Palmerston North to Longburn used by walkers, runners and cyclists, and we are currently designing an extension to this to make more of the highway safer for pedestrians and cyclists as part of a wider regional cycle strategy. There is also rural/residential development on the urban edge of Palmerston North planned.