North Canterbury lower speed limits could be permanent

CLOSED: Slips and damage closed the after the November earthquake . . PHOTO: NZTA.

Lower speed limits on the alternate route to Picton, implemented in the wake of the Kaikoura earthquake, could be made permanent.

Following the magnitude 7.8 earthquake in November, New Zealand Transport Agency temporarily lowered the speed limits to a number of roads on the route under emergency legislation.

They included the lowering of the limit to 80km/h through the Weka Pass, near Waikari, and a windy section between Culverden and Hanmer Springs.

Other lower speed limits were introduced on State Highways 7, 65, 6 and 63.

The transport agency will begin consultation next week on a bylaw which would make the changes permanent.

NZ Transport Agency Regional Relationships director Jim Harland said the changes were brought in as a safety measure due to the significant increase in traffic using the route while State Highway 1 remained closed for repair.

He said the temporary limits could only be in place for six months, but SH1 would not be restored until the end of the year so the changes needed to be made permanent.

NZTA would be seeking feedback on the proposed bylaw from councils, stakeholders, road user groups and local communities.

Mr Harland said it would continue to monitor the route once SH1 was restored, and if required, would review speed limits again.

“Since the earthquake we’ve taken action to make sure the road remains safe for everyone travelling on it, and to ensure the safety of people living in communities along the route.

“This has included reducing speed limits on high-risk parts of the route – sections of open road that are narrow and windy, and at approaches to intersections and towns.”

He said the Government was also investing $60million in upgrading parts of the route to make it safer.

That included widening several sections of road, resealing work, installing several new bailey bridges alongside existing one-way bridges, installing traffic signals on several one-way bridges, and using radars and webcams to measure traffic volumes and provide travel updates.

Consultation would also include a proposal to lower the speed limit on a section of the Lower Buller Gorge that links to the alternate route.

It will run from Monday until May 3 on the transport agency’s website.