Flexible median barriers

Why are you installing a flexible median barrier?

We’re making safety improvements to SH1 between Levin and Foxton to improve safety now and once the new Ōtaki to north of Levin highway (Ō2NL) is complete.

When Ō2NL is open, drivers will travel from Wellington to north of Levin on four-lane, median separated highways and join on onto the existing SH1 in this area.  These safety improvements are needed to ensure people safely transition from the expressway driving environment to the traditional two-lane section of state highway.

A median barrier physically separates opposing traffic and helps to prevent head-on crashes by vehicles travelling into opposing traffic lanes. When a vehicle hits a flexible barrier, the steel cables flex, slowing down the vehicle and keeping it upright. The barriers absorb the impact of the crash and reduce the risk of injury.

Flexible median barriers, alongside the other safety improvements we are making, will make this road safer.

Median barriers can reduce the number of people killed or seriously injured in crashes by 65 percent*.

*Standard Safety Intervention Toolkit, published September 2021, NZ Transport Agency, Waka Kotahi(external link).

Are you installing a flexible median barrier along the whole project route?

We are installing flexible median barriers in sections along the route we have identified are at high risk of head-on crashes, and where it is safe for flexible median barrier to be installed:

  • from the southern entrance to Foxton through to the existing flexible median barrier on the Manawatū River Bridge.
  • from the southern end of the Manawatū River Bridge through to the intersection of SH1 and Koputaroa Road, with a gap and right turn bay at the entrance to Mitchpine.
  • approximately 600 metres before and 200 metres after the Waitārere Beach Road roundabout.

 We are also constructing three new turnaround facilities at:

  • the southern entrance to Foxton
  • the Oturoa Road intersection
  • the Koputaroa Road intersection on the eastern side of SH1.

There is also an existing turnaround available underneath the Manawatū River Bridge on Matakarapa and Whirokino Roads.

When will you install the flexible median barrier?

We are installing the median barrier in stretches. The first stretch will be installed between Foxton and the Manawatū River Bridge once the Foxton turnaround facility has been constructed. The second stretch will be installed south of the bridge once the remaining turnaround facilities are constructed.

Will the flexible median barrier affect access to my property?

We have worked with property owners and residents to inform the design of the barrier and to ensure they have continued access to their properties.

Will the flexible median barrier mean I have to travel further?

Once we have installed the median barrier, people entering the highway from a private access or from Newth Road will only be able to turn left and will have to use a safe turnaround area to go in the opposite direction.

We are constructing safe turnaround facilities for people to use at the southern entrance to Foxton, Oturoa Road, and Koputaroa Road. There is also an existing turnaround facility at the Manawatū River Bridge.

In designing the improvements, we aimed to strike a balance between convenience and protecting everyone who uses the road.

Will property values fall in the areas where flexible median barrier is installed?

There are no indications property values are reduced in areas where barrier is installed.

How will emergency services get to people in an accident once flexible median barrier is installed?

We have worked with emergency service stakeholders to understand their requirements in determining the placement of flexible median barrier on this road.

The barrier can be lowered and driven over in emergency situations if needed.

Flexible median barriers significantly reduce the number of crashes on roads where they are installed.

NZTA has produced a video, featuring representatives from Fire and Emergency New Zealand, NZ Police, and Wellington Free Ambulance, where they talk about why they support the installation of flexible median barriers on our roads.

Why have you left a gap in the flexible median barrier at Mitchpine Mill?

To achieve the greatest safety benefit from flexible median barrier, we aim to have as few gaps in the barrier as possible but in some situations, we need to leave gaps to achieve the best safety outcomes.

We need to leave a gap in the flexible median barrier at the Mitchpine Mill to allow trucks to turn right. This will prevent multiple trucks queuing to use the turnaround facility at Koputaroa Road, which could create safety issues for southbound traffic on SH1.

Won’t people use the gap in the flexible median barrier at the Mitchpine Mill to make unsafe U-turns?

People driving smaller vehicles such as cars will be able to turn safely at the gap in the flexible median barrier. People driving larger vehicles will need to use one of the turnaround facilities.

Why are you installing flexible median barriers across the intersection of SH1 and Newth Road?

To achieve the greatest safety benefit from the flexible median barrier, there will be as few gaps in the barrier as possible. We understand that the flexible median barrier across the intersection with Newth Road will result in slightly increased travel times for some road users but keeping people alive on our roads is our priority.

The flexible median barrier will also reduce the number of people using Newth Road as a bypass to Palmerston North. Newth Road is narrow and has hazards like deep drainage ditches either side – it is safer to use SH1.

How will the flexible median barrier across the intersection of SH1 and Newth Road affect access to and from the side road?

The flexible median barrier across the intersection of SH1 and Newth Road will result in a small amount of additional travel time for some people.

People travelling north on SH1 who want to access Newth Road can use the turnaround at the southern entrance to Foxton, an additional 1.8 km of travel (approximately 1.5-2 minutes of travel time at the current speed limit).

People who want to travel north from Newth Road on SH1 will need to use the existing turnaround underneath the Manawatū River Bridge, an additional 5.7 km of travel (approximately 4-4.5 minutes of travel time at the current speed limit).

Will the flexible median barriers be safe for motorcyclists?

People on motorcycles have a higher risk of getting seriously hurt or even killed on our roads. They are more exposed, and our roads and roadsides can be unforgiving.

Barriers, especially flexible safety barriers, can reduce the number of motorcyclists killed and injured on our roads by 50 percent*.

Barriers between lanes stop a driver’s mistake from becoming a rider’s nightmare. They can also stop riders ending up in the path of oncoming traffic if they come off their motorcycle.

*Carlsson, A. (2009). Evaluation of 2+1 roads with cable barrier. Final report. VTI rapport 636A.

Will the flexible median barrier make the road narrower?

There will still be enough room on the road for all vehicles. We will widen the road where needed.

Will the flexible median barriers be visible at night and when it is rainy and foggy?

The flexible median barriers will be made from galvanised steel, which is silver and highly reflective, so they can be seen when visibility is low. There will also be reflectors on every tenth post.

Will I be able to pass a slow-moving vehicle where flexible median barriers are installed?

If you want to pass slower traffic, you’ll need to wait until the slower vehicle can pull over into a suitable gap on the side of the road. While this may require some patience and understanding, it helps protect everyone so we can all get to the places important to us.

There will be safe spaces along the road where vehicles can pull over to allow others to pass.

Will cyclists still be able to ride on the road once the barriers are installed?

We’re making this road safer for everyone, and this includes people riding bikes. Wherever we put in a side barrier we’ll make sure there’s enough space between the barrier and the road for cyclists.

The roundabout at the intersection of SH1 and Waitārere Beach Road will also have space for people to cycle around the intersection away from vehicles.

Turnaround facilities

Where will the turnaround facilities be constructed?

A large turnaround is already available underneath the Manawatū River Bridge on Matakarapa and Whirokino Roads. Three more sign-posted turnaround locations will be constructed: one at the southern entrance to Foxton for people heading south, another at the Oturoa Road intersection, and the third on the eastern side of SH1 at the Koputaroa Road intersection.

How did you decide where to place the turnaround facilities?

We considered the following factors when planning the locations of the turnaround facilities:

  • The number of driveways for residents or businesses on the road, and the practicality for people using turnaround facilities daily.
  • The likelihood of unsafe behaviour.
  • The types of vehicles that travel on the road and the frequency they will need to turn.
  • The length of clear roadway visible to a driver when exiting the turnaround facility

Generally, NZTA guidelines recommend a spacing of 3km between turnaround facilities. This supports the safety benefits gained from flexible median barriers and the access needs for people living or working in the area.

What are the benefits of turnaround facilities?

While you may need to drive a bit further, turnaround facilities will provide a much safer right turning access off and on to the road for everyone. Specifically, they can:

  • Reduce how much opposing traffic someone needs to navigate when turning right out of a side road or driveway.
  • Reduce the risk of a rear-end crash from someone driving behind a person turning right.
  • Combine accessways and turning points at a safe location on the road.
  • Provide an alternative location for people driving to safely stop, such as for maintenance and in an emergency.

Roadside barriers

Why are you installing roadside barriers?

We are installing a small number of roadside barriers at high-risk locations where there are things like trees, poles or deep ditches that can’t be easily moved.

These side barriers will stop cars from going further off the road and hitting one of these hazards. Roadside safety barriers at high-risk locations can reduce death and serious injuries by up to 30 percent*.

* Johansson, R. (2009). Vision Zero – Implementing a Policy for Traffic Safety. Safety Science. 47(6), 826-831.

Will the roadside barriers prevent large agricultural vehicles from pulling over?

We are installing only a small number of roadside barriers, at high-risk locations. There will be safe spaces along the road where large agricultural vehicles can pull over to allow others to pass.

 

Waitārere Beach Road roundabout

Why are you building a roundabout at the intersection of SH1 and Waitārere Beach Road?

The new roundabout at the intersection of SH1 and Waitārere Beach Road will safely connect the growing Waitārere Beach community to the wider road network.

Roundabouts reduce speed of all vehicles, making it easier for you to choose the right time to enter flowing traffic.

They also help protect people on our road by lowering the risk of a high impact crash. Roundabouts reduce the number of points where you could potentially collide with another vehicle, and if you do, the angle and impact speed are more forgiving than in some other intersection layouts.

Will the roundabout cause queues/delays for northbound traffic?

While the roundabout will cause people to slow down as they approach it, it is not expected to cause long queues or delays.

Will there be space for cyclists to safely use the roundabout?

The roundabout will include concrete lane separation on all approaches and space for people to cycle around the intersection away from vehicles.

Poroutawhao School

Will there be turning lanes or bays installed outside Poroutawhao School?

We are constructing a right-turn bay into Poroutawhao School to make it safer for people travelling north to access the school.

Is a safety barrier going to be installed between SH1 and the school bus zone?

We cannot install a safety barrier in front of the school bus zone as the length between the entrance and exit to the school is too short to support one.

Passing lane

Will the passing lane be retained?

Yes, the passing lane will be retained.