Dubbed ‘the longest road works in New Zealand’ by members of the community, the Walnut Avenue intersections upgrade is in its final days.
Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail will complete the project ahead of schedule with an official ceremony on Friday.
“It’s been a long time so it will certainly be good to have the project finished and see the back of all those road cones,” Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown said.
“It’s looking pretty good and will be great to have the intersections up and running.”
The project replaces roundabouts at the intersections of Walnut Avenue and State Highway 1, and Walnut Avenue and West Street, with traffic lights and an upgrade of the rail crossing between the two intersections.
Testing of the new traffic and the railway crossing signals started last week to ensure the railway crossing interface is all properly working.
The finishing touches to the intersections, including the road markings, will be completed in the next few days before the lights are switched on.
Work began on the project, which had a $15 million budget, in August 2021 and had an 18-month timeline but it has been heavily criticised for being a drawn out process.
Waka Kotahi had completed the intersection upgrades and lights installation by May, but KiwiRail didn’t start work until late August which drew the ire of the community.
In June, Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail fronted the council to explain that there was no delay and the project remained on schedule as planned.
Brown said it was strange how the two parts of the project couldn’t coalesce closer together.
The project has been delivered on time, as far as the official schedule, but the final cost of the project is not yet known.
For locals glad to see the end of the traffic cones it will be temporary as they will shift south to Tinwald next year for the start of the Tinwald corridor – another joint Waka Kotahi and KiwiRail project.
The project will have traffic lights installed at the SH1/Lagmhor Road/Agnes Street intersection and an upgraded railway crossing.
Brown said the message has been strongly delivered by the council that the community does not want to see the Tinwald project drag on.
“Hopefully the lessons learnt [at Walnut Avenue] can be taken into account in Tinwald to make the process amicable to road users with minimal disruption in the shortest possible time.”
Waka Kotahi is scheduled to update the council on the Tinwald project in December.
- Jonathan Leask