By ROBYN BRISTOW
Leithfield Community Committee (LCC) is demanding changes to the Mill Road, State Highway One intersection just south of Amberley.
The committee says residents had become increasingly concerned about safety of turning traffic at the intersection which is complicated by its close proximity to the Kowai Bridge.
It has petitioned the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) calling for “urgent” changes before someone is killed turning into Leithfield via Mill from the busy highway.
A total of 350 people signed the petition calling for widening of the state highway, marking a turning bay to allow more space for right turning traffic to wait in, moving the intersection slightly south and signage to the north warning of right turning traffic ahead.
It says while a right turning bay is not likely without significant expense, it was felt there were measures NZTA could take to make the intersection safer.
“They (the residents) do not support the closure of the intersection.
“This is due to the impact of redirecting traffic and emergency services on a relatively lengthy detour past the local school on Old Main Road and for some, on to the unsealed Mays Road to access SH1 from Balcairn.”
Chairperson Julie Coster of LCC presented the petition to NZTA’s Canterbury Area manager Barry Stratton at a recent Hurunui District Council Road Safety Co-ordinating committee meeting.
Mrs Coster said he was cautious about the response of NZTA to the request and advised petitioners the intersection would not be an easy fix and any that changes would be expensive.
“The LCC Inc committee and the community understand this but feel something has to be done in the short term before there is a fatal accident at this intersection.
“Whatever the final outcome will be, the community want to have something done as soon as possible to make this a safer environment for their community,” she says.
Residents feared waiting to turn right from the state highway into Mill Road. It often took time for oncoming, northbound traffic to clear and in the meantime others wanting to turn right either parked in behind the turning car or pulled over to the left.
It was a “power packed” situation that could go “badly wrong” as traffic continued to round a blind bend at the Kowai Bridge to be greeted by turning traffic and vehicles parked on the right and left.
The petition suggests a compromise solution of backfilling the steep slopes on all sides of the intersection – both north and south of Willow Lane and to the south of Mill Road.
It also calls for the widening of the state highway to allow more room for 100kph southbound traffic to negotiate vehicles sitting in the centre waiting to turn right and those that had pulled hard to the left to wait their turn.
Mrs Coster says with changes to the traffic flows and more traffic due to people moving out to the Amberley district following the Christchurch earthquakes the need for a change at the intersection was now “more urgent”.
“The community won’t be satisfied until they see changes and an improved safety outcome at the Mill Road intersection.”
She says the presentation of the petition coincided with the release of an NZTA report this week – ‘Strategic Case for State Highway 1 (Picton to Ashley River Bridge) – which highlighted the huge increase of traffic on State Highway One, including heavy trucks.
The report backed what LCC Inc was saying that “this part of the SH1 has become increasingly heavy with domestic and overseas tourist traffic”.