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Mayor pleased NZTA abandons SH1 median barriers

Mayor pleased NZTA abandons SH1 median barriers
NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi is planning to widen State Highway 1 to improve safety and reduce risk by having vehicles further apart, abandoning plans to install median barriers. PHOTO ASHBURTON GUARDIAN

Ashburton’s mayor is celebrating NZTA abandoning plans to install median barriers on State Highway 1 between Ashburton and Rakaia.

Median barriers have been proposed along SH1 from Ashburton to Rolleston since 2021.

An NZTA spokesperson said the change was in response to government priorities outlined in the draft Government Policy Statement on land transport.

It’s a decision that has pleased Ashburton Mayor Neil Brown, who has long voiced his opposition to the “wire ropes down the middle of the road”.

Brown met with NZTA representatives earlier this week and was informed that the median barriers won’t be happening now.

“They’ll be looking at putting in the wider median strips instead.

“It’s a good common sense approach to it and I’m happy they are going to do that.

“They have some in already at Hinds following a recent upgrade and it looks good.”

In August last year, NZTA’s relationship manager James Caygill had discussed with the Ashburton District Council how the SH1 improvement plan was focusing on widening the existing road corridor as the first step, and then adding median barriers if required.

A change of government has caused a change in direction.

Rangitata MP James Meager and Waitaki MP Miles Anderson had written to Transport Minister Simeon Brown on March 23 regarding the median barriers.

Minister Brown responded on Monday informing them that, following a review, it had been determined that the Rakaia to Ashburton and the Timaru to St Andrews sections will no longer progress.

“These safety improvements projects will now progress with lower cost safety interventions, including wide centre lines, road widening and resurfacing,” Minister Brown said.

Meager said the wire median barriers were “unnecessarily costly and didn’t address what the local community saw as the main safety improvements needed on our roads”.

“Widening roads and introducing painted medians seem like sensible approaches, giving separation of the traffic without blocking agricultural equipment, emergency services or requiring long, and unproductive detours.”

NZTA is planning to widen SH1 where possible from the Rakaia River Bridge to Ashburton, with the aim of 11.5 metres side to side, increased from the existing 7.5- 9.5m.

By Jonathan Leask