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Traffic signals for Taupo on hold

Fuseworks Media
Fuseworks Media

Taupō District Council is putting on hold plans to install traffic signals in the Taupō central business district, but believes signals at the intersection of Norman Smith Street and Wairakei Drive offer the best short to long-term solution for improving northern access traffic flow.

Plans for the six sets of traffic signals that were to be installed in town are to be put on hold pending the development of a transport strategy that takes into account opportunities for walking and cycling infrastructure, traffic management, and the overall network. Investigative work will also be carried out on the possibility of a new bridge downstream from the Control Gates Bridge, with all options, designs and costings being explored in addition to the potential to work with landowners.

The decisions were made during deliberations on the council’s draft Long-term Plan this week, where the Mayor and Councillors considered more than 400 submissions from the community. Of those more than 70 focussed on the council’s plans to improve traffic flow through the Taupō Central Business District, many calling for roundabouts instead of traffic signals.

During a presentation from consultants Traffic Design Group, who were brought in last year to study the intersections, there was debate on whether traffic signals or a roundabout would be the best option for the Norman Smith Street/Wairakei Drive intersection, and the virtues of each were discussed.

Computerised models of traffic flow showed traffic signals at Norman Smith Street and Wairakei Drive would be the best tool to ease the current congestion issues, as a roundabout would only work where flow was equal, would not be pedestrian or cycle friendly, and would result in long lines of traffic on Control Gates Hill having to give way to traffic entering the roundabout from the right via Norman Smith Street.

If a roundabout was installed in that location it would need to be 38 metres in diameter in order to function correctly, and the acquisition of the land required for this would mean added costs and delays. A smaller roundabout could possibly make congestion worse, the consultant said, and a roundabout of adequate size would cost somewhere in the order of $2.5 million, five times the cost of traffic signals.

Councillors acknowledged that something had to be done as soon as possible to ease congestion at the intersection and that traffic signals offered a cost-effective solution that could be put in place quickly while the planned transport strategy was completed.

Work on the strategy will start in the next few months and will include consultation with a range of key stakeholders and the wider community.

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