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19 July 2018 Chloe Brigden

A project delivered by WSP Opus in Rotorua expects a 50% reduction in the crash rate at NZ’s fourth riskiest intersection and has also provided wider-reaching benefits for the community. 

New Zealand’s road safety has been a growing concern. The complexities of our roads, paired with weather influences, vague signage and driver alertness played a part in the 280 road-related deaths in 2017.

In August 2013, the NZ Transport Agency (the Agency) published the high-risk intersection guide, with goals of addressing New Zealand’s highest risk intersections by 2020.

The intersection of Old Taupo Road (SH5) and Hemo Road (SH5/SH30) at the southern entrance to Rotorua, was identified as the fourth riskiest intersection in New Zealand by the Agency at this time.

Prior to the improvements, the layout was a standard T-intersection with a slip lane and activity of more than 12,500 vehicles per day, 1,500 of these trucks and commercial vehicles. With 31 crashes recorded over a five-year period (2009-2013), the number of injury crashes appeared to be increasing.

WSP Opus were engaged by the Agency to undertake the optioneering; integrated planning, detailed design and MSQA for the SH5/SH30 Hemo Gorge improvements. Work commenced late 2013.

The T-intersection combination wasn’t considered appropriate for the strategic nature of the intersection. WSP Opus’ solution was to replace the T-intersection with a roundabout to improve safety for drivers, cyclists and pedestrians, therefore reducing the risk of death and serious injury crashes.

Instead of adopting a traditional engineering-driven approach to road safety, the Agency worked collaboratively with key stakeholders and interested parties to plan, design, consent, and deliver a truly integrated solution that supported and enhanced the surrounding land uses.

Project objectives to improve the traffic safety and efficiency of the intersection were given equal weight to objectives focusing on local economic growth and development, the creation of a southern “gateway” precinct for Rotorua, integration with pedestrian and cycling facilities, meeting the needs of surrounding land uses, and providing for efficient whole-of-life maintenance.

As of February 2014, on average the T-intersection carried around 12,500 vehicles, 140 cyclists and 80 pedestrians per day. Since the upgrade, a recent survey showed a daily average of 218 cyclists and 214 pedestrians per day travelling through the underpasses.

The entire community can now engage and connect with surrounding land, Te Puia, Toi Ohomai, Whakawerawera Forest and Te Ari Ahi National Cycleway.
Attending the Golden Foot Walking Awards last week, WSP Opus accepted the Connecting Communities Award for their work on the SH5 Intersection.

Living Streets Tumuaki Tuarua Ellen Blake said: “These projects have one thing in common - they’re finding new and clever ways to get Kiwis out every day being active.”
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The Golden Foot Walking Awards celebrate and recognise New Zealand achievements for walkers by acknowledging innovative new facilities, highlighting national best practice and rewarding ongoing commitment to walking. The awards are open to all - private companies and public organisations, not-for-profit groups, and community organisations or individuals.

2018 INNOVATE NZ Awards represents business services and advocacy for consulting professionals in the built and natural environment. WSP Opus received the Silver Award on the 3rd August 2018 for our work on the Hemo Gorge Intersection Improvements.