Now that Waka Kotahi NZTA has completed the main construction on its SH2 safety improvement project between Carterton and Masterton, which has disrupted Wairarapa traffic for 12 months, local leaders have mixed feelings.
The project has involved the construction of three roundabouts, a wire centre median barrier, and road widening, and the highway will soon also have a new permanent speed limit of 80kmh.
Carterton Mayor Ron Mark said the project has been “a lot of pain for some gain.”
“I’m still not convinced the cheese cutter is a good idea; it’s a huge inconvenience for anyone who lives along SH2 who will now need to head south to head north or vice versa,” he said.
Mark is unsure why, with all the safety improvements, the speed limit needs to be dropped to 80kmh.
“The roundabouts are great; that’s all we asked for, and we’ve got them, so that’s good,” he said.
“The jury is still out on the rest of the changes; I guess time will tell.”
“It seems like Waka Kotahi has a lot of money to burn, and that’s what they’ve done.”
Wairarapa Automobile Association [AA] chairman Craig Bowyer said the AA had campaigned for the roundabouts for 30 years, so is happy to see them installed.
Bowyer said the AA is still concerned about the concrete power poles on the roadside near the Clareville turnaround area. “Power poles are dangerous; all it takes is one driver to make a mistake,” he said.
Waka Kotahi needs to install an Armco barrier on the left-hand side of the road in that section to prevent crashes, Bowyer said.
“If that were installed, the AA would fully support the speed limit returning to 100kmh.”
Road safety advocate and former motorcycle racer Aaron Slight has long criticised the project, saying it represents poor value for money.
He agrees with Bowyer that the project fails to protect motorists from crashing into things on the left-hand side of the road and also has concerns about the truck turnaround bay.
Slight said the turnaround bay could create a short-stacking hazard where trucks are forced to leave their trailers hanging out into oncoming traffic.
“I think it’s a waste of $24 million. All we wanted was two roundabouts at Ngaumutawa Rd and Norfolk Rd, and they’ve built three, plus all this other stuff,” he said.
Slight said he doesn’t understand why Waka Kotahi needs to reduce the speed limit to 80kmh after it has installed so many physical safety features.
Masterton mayor Gary Caffell said it’s a relief that the work is finished.
“There’s been a lot of discussion about these roadworks, with many people thinking things weren’t as quick as they should have been,” he said.
“People moan and groan, but I think it’s something we’ve got to be positive about.”
Caffell said he can see the value in the upgrades and thinks it will improve traffic flow and road safety along the stretch of highway.
“I guess it’s onwards and upward from here.”