The NZ Transport Agency is to fund a pedestrian and cycle underpass of Airport Rd/SH21 – one of several safety black spots in Tamahere.
The action comes after unprecedented protests in Tamahere, including a packed public meeting, and a call to the agency by Associate Transport Minister Julie Anne Genter for safer connectivity for the area.
Tamahere Community Committee chair Sue Robertson welcomed confirmation of the funding for the underpass but said it was just a start.
The crossing of Airport Rd/SH21 was just one of three main concerns for the safety of pedestrians and cyclists connecting to the Tamahere hub precinct, she said.
The other concerns were the safe crossing of the SH1 Expressway, and safe access to and from the underpass from Tamahere Park. The latter included safety around the park playground and car parks, Tamahere School and Newell Road.
“The Tamahere Community Committee is very pleased that NZTA has confirmed funding for the building of an underpass of State Highway 21 at Tamahere,” Robertson said.
“We look forward to further consultation with NZTA and the Waikato District Council on the design and location and especially where pedestrians and cyclists will be directed to on the northern side of SH21.”
TCC’s view was that all three of the safety issues needed to be addressed together, she said.
“They are three parts of the whole and we are heartened by the prompt attention that has been given to the SH21 crossing funding. We look forward to having close involvement in the concept and design plans to ensure that the solutions to all three [parts] meet the safety goals and needs of the growing Tamahere community.”
A huge increase in the usage of the park, playground and commercial area is expected in coming years and that would combine with an estimated 2000 walkers and cyclists per week using the Te Awa cycleway, which will pass through the area.
“It will create a very different environment than the area is used to,” Robertson said.
“The ensuing safety issues need to be considered from the outset.
“Once across SH21, children still need to get to school, and others to their destinations. We are keen to see a plan for how all of this can work as a whole.”
In a statement, NZTA said it was funding the SH21 underpass as part of its section of the Te Awa Cambridge to Hamilton shared path.
A final decision on construction of the underpass would be subject to the findings of detailed design and geotechnical testing of the ground conditions, expected to take place in the first half of next year with construction of the underpass expected to begin in the second half of 2020.
The exact location of the underpass would be confirmed through the design process, with the initial planning for a crossing under SH21 by the park to the north of Wiremu Tamihana Drive.
Meanwhile, the agency said a vulnerable users survey had been undertaken in response to community concerns about the east-west crossing of SH1, and the results were being assessed.
Roberston said TCC was not aware of the survey’s parameters but would look forward to an update from NZTA Acting Director of Regional Relationships Ross l’Anson at its monthly meeting on Monday (November 4).
“The safe crossing of the Expressway east to west is equally important,” she said.
Robertson said she could confirm that NZTA had also advised that it had identified the drawing of a footbridge spanning SH1 that was shown to the committee about 10 years ago.
The drawing, since missing, had fueled anger among the committee that NZTA had been stringing it along for a decade with suggestions that pedestrian access was being planned.
“We trusted NZTA to deliver for our community. In hindsight that was a mistake and I now question the motives of NZTA in showing us that [drawing],” former TCC chair Dallas Fisher said at a public meeting last month.
Robertson said the bridge depicted in the relocated drawing was the option put to the committee for crossing the expressway from east to west and “we hope that NZTA will continue to investigate and develop that solution as earlier promised.”
TCC meets on the first Monday of the month. It’s meetings are public. Minutes are here.