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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.

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.

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.

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.

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

Welcome Bay Lane was reopened to cars on Sunday 24 November. The lane was closed in September 2018 after significant concerns about cyclists’ safety. Due to public pressure the previous mayor and councillors approved a solution to address the safety issues that would allow Welcome Bay Lane to reopen.

The improvements have been audited by an independent safety consultant in collaboration with Council and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency and have been specifically designed to improve safety at the entry and exit points of Welcome Bay Lane.

How to use the new road lay-out

While Welcome Bay Lane is now open to cars, all heavy vehicles – including trucks, buses and other larger vehicles – will still need to use the signalised intersection on Welcome Bay Road.

People on bikes are advised to divert left off Welcome Bay Road and use a new shared path and safe crossing point located along Welcome Bay Lane. This will bring them back to Welcome Bay Road past the Welcome Bay Lane entry.

More confident cyclists will likely continue to use Welcome Bay Road. Motorists are reminded to indicate their intentions early and look out for cyclists when accessing Welcome Bay Lane as cyclists have right of way.

Safety measures

The kerb line at the entrance of Welcome Bay Lane has been built out to limit the size of vehicles that can access the lane and slow down vehicles turning into the lane. If you’re driving in a car and turning into Welcome Bay Lane please indicate, slow down and look over your left shoulder for people on bikes.

Other safety improvements include a traffic calming device known as a ‘speed cushion’ to slow vehicles prior to the cycle crossing near the entry to Welcome Bay Lane.

The Welcome Bay Lane exit to Welcome Bay Road has been upgraded to allow left-turning vehicles to more easily access Greenwood Park.

What are the safety issues?

Bottom of Welcome Bay Lane – vehicles entering Welcome Bay Lane at high speed and some drivers not indicating were the key contributors to safety concerns. This created a significant safety risk for cyclists.

Top of Welcome Bay Lane – drivers exiting the lane at speed and not being aware of other motorists attempting to access Greenwood Park Village.

Developing a solution for the Welcome Bay Lane

The mayor and councillors 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, were presented to Council on Tuesday, 14 May during the Projects, Services and Operations Committee meeting. In short, the mayor and councillors agreed to pursue reopening of Welcome Bay Lane as long as the discussion with Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency about funding was progressed.

The agenda and reviews of the council meeting

Media release summarising recommendations and next steps

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

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

Last Reviewed: 14/09/2020

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