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Maungatapu underpass

Maungatapu roundabout

The Maungatapu underpass opened on 22 June 2018. It was built by the NZ Transport Agency to help improve traffic flow through the Maungatapu and Hairini roundabouts.

Understanding the complexity of the Maungatapu underpass and its road network

The road network around the Maungatapu underpass is extremely complex. The state highway supports people travelling between the rapid growth areas of Papamoa and Tauriko.

The underpass ties in with various roads from Welcome Bay, Hairini, Ohauiti, Maungatapu and the city centre. The highway and surrounding roads are busy during peak times and will get busier as Tauranga grows. To address and improve safety and traffic flow in this area, council works with the NZ Transport Agency and the Bay of Plenty Regional Council.

How did we get here? What are the challenges? What principles are we working to?
  • Tauranga is the most car-reliant city in New Zealand. It is also one of the country’s fastest-growing cities.
  • Public transport, walking and biking are now being prioritised in the city’s budgets and town planning.
  • There are more than 14 intersections in a confined area. 
  • Too many vehicles. The road network is usually full during peak hours.
  • Safety of vulnerable road users 
  • Landform
  • People’s safety takes priority.
  • Reducing the number of vehicles on the road.
  • Making it easier for more people to move around the city by bus, bike or on foot.
  • Creating a balanced transport network.
  • Moving more people more efficiently on our roads.

Maungatapu underpass speed limit

As of Thursday, 28 March, the following changes have been implemented:

  • The current speed limit through the Maungatapu underpass is raised from 50km/h to 60km/h
  • The current speed limit along the causeway is lowered from 70km/h to 60km/h, including the approaches to and from the SH29A Maungatapu roundabout.
  • The speed limit along Welcome Bay Lane – which is temporarily closed – remains at 50km/h.

Approved speed limits - Maungatapu underpass (473kb pdf)

Why 60km/h?

New roads associated with the Maungatapu Underpass have been assessed against national speed criteria, which considers the function, nature and use of the road, its environment and adjacent land use.

A 60 km/h speed limit is the safest and most appropriate speed limit for Welcome Bay Link Road.

One of the Government’s key objectives for managing speed is to create a more consistent and intuitive speed management system. At higher travel speeds (between 60 and 100km/h) people have trouble differentiating speed limit differences of just 10km/h. According to the NZ Speed Management Guide, the 70km/h and 90km/h limits are only to be considered as temporary interventions.

Hairini Street vehicle access

Access to the causeway through Hairini Street

Access onto the Hairini causeway through Hairini Street was closed on 25 June 2018 because of safety concerns.

The three-way merge comprising traffic from the underpass, Maungatapu roundabout and Hairini Street presents a significant safety issue. Safety audits point to it being unsafe to open Hairini Street for general traffic.

Next steps
The community has asked us to consider the option of opening up the bus lane to general traffic outside peak hours. This piece of work is on going and will be reported to a future Council meeting in due course.

Safety audits point to it being unsafe to open Hairini Street for general traffic

Access on to Hairini Street from the Hairini roundabout

Residents have raised concerns about accessing Hairini via the roundabout.

Next steps
As part of the traffic modelling NZTA is looking into safer access at the Hairini roundabout.

Hairini Street bus lane

A new bus lane was opened on 6 July 2018. The bus lane is working well and is an important step toward enabling more reliable bus trips between Hairini and the city, especially as the Bay of Plenty Regional Council increased the number of bus services in December 2018.

Tauranga City Council and the Transport Agency agree that the Hairini Street bus lane is an essential addition to Tauranga’s urban transport network. The Hairini bus lane supports Tauranga City Council’s transport policy and the government’s priority of reducing the need for people to make local trips in private vehicles. Public transport is a critical component for contributing to a thriving region and Regional Council is committed to delivering this for the Bay of Plenty.

The effective delivery of a public transport network is complex, challenging and constantly changing, and it requires significant capacity, capability and resources.

How did the bus lane come about?

The original design for the Maungatapu underpass removed the existing slip lane from Hairini Street and replaced it with a give-way T-intersection for general traffic.

The bus lane proposal was a response to public complaints about Welcome Bay school buses being seriously affected by traffic congestion. The NZ Transport Agency agreed to modify the existing design to allow for the Hairini slip lane to be converted to a city-bound bus lane. There were concerns about the safety of a 3-way merge, however, the bus lane was accepted by an independent safety audit on the basis that there would be fewer vehicles using the lane.

Use of bus lanes graph

Next steps

The community has asked us to consider the option of opening up the bus lane to general traffic outside peak hours. This piece of work is on going and will be reported to a future Council meeting in due course.

Welcome Bay Road intersections

New roading projects follow a rigorous safety audit process during design stages, and then a final check after construction to make sure that the live environment is safe for all road users. After the Maungatapu underpass opened, serious safety issues for people who ride bikes past Welcome Bay Lane were identified.

A cycle safety review was commissioned by the council and the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) which confirmed that Welcome Bay Lane needed to be closed at the intersection of Welcome Bay Road for safety reasons. The road was closed on Saturday, 29 September 2018 while we investigate the roading design to ensure a safe environment for all road users.

It has been important to understand fully the wider impact on journey times because subtle changes can impact safety and traffic flows, particularly during the morning peak. Also, the perceived benefits of opening the lane need to be weighed very carefully against the safety risks that would need to be managed at both ends of Welcome Bay Lane.

What are the safety issues?

Bottom of Welcome Bay Lane – vehicles enter Welcome Bay Lane at high speeds. Drivers often do not indicate. These factors present a significant safety risk for someone who is cycling across the intersection, even though they have right of way.

Top of Welcome Bay Lane – people tend to exit the lane at speed and some are not aware of people driving up the hill who are trying to merge into the exit lane to access either the Greenwood Village entrance or the Ohauiti Road traffic lights in the left hand lane. This creates potential for rear and side impact crashes.

Developing a solution for the Welcome Bay Lane

Elected Members directed an independent review be undertaken to look specifically at what could be done in the short-term to re-open Welcome Bay Lane, as well as seeking recommendations to further ease congestion on Welcome Bay Road. 

The results of this review, undertaken by Aurecon, have been presented to Council on Tuesday, 14 May during the Projects, Services and Operations Committee meeting. In short, the Elected Members have agreed to pursue reopening the slip lane as long as the discussion with NZTA about funding is progressed.

The agenda and reviews of the council meeting

Media release summarising recommendations and next steps

Also, we are considering a road re-design that would allow us to safely reopen Welcome Bay Lane.

Hammond Street/Welcome Bay Road traffic lights

We are looking at designs to enable a ‘free left turn’ at the Welcome Bay Road/Hammond Street traffic lights. The purpose of the free left turn is to improve traffic flow at the traffic lights, particularly for those vehicles turning left at the lights when approaching from the Welcome Bay direction. We are also looking at signal phasing to allow vehicles from Welcome Bay to enter Hammond Street from the inside lane at the lights.

Ohauiti Road/Welcome Bay Road intersection

We are working towards improving pedestrian and cycling links through this intersection. We are also exploring options to reinstate the right turn out of Ohauiti Road and a free left turn into Ohauiti Road from Welcome Bay Road.

A presentation was made to the Transportation Committee on 10 December 2018.

Summary - Tauranga City Council Transport Modelling (4mb pdf)

Full Report - Tauranga City Council Transport Modelling (5mb pdf)

Last Reviewed: 23/05/2019


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