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Tinwald seeing red rather than sea of orange

Tinwald seeing red rather than sea of orange

Business owners are happy to see the new traffic lights switched on in Tinwald this week, signaling an end to the sea of road cones.

The new traffic lights on State Highway 1 in Ashburton south of the Ashburton/Hakatere River Bridge, aim to help traffic move more easily and safely across the busy intersection. However, work has been ongoing since July last year, causing frustration for businesses.

Tinwald Supervalue owner Gaylene Thompson said the new traffic signals hadn’t made things any worse in a traffic corridor prone to congestion.

“It’s probably too early to say but the last few days have gone reasonably well.

“From what I’ve seen less of a snarl up of traffic going north and it’s quite smooth for the locals to get to town.

“Coming out is a little bit slower.

“We haven’t seen it making things worse but this week probably isn’t the one to judge it.”

That’s because Easter is historically a slog through Ashburton with high volumes of traffic.

The big test will come over Easter weekend, with NZTA forecasting traffic flows to be heaviest on Monday.

NZ Transport Agency Waka Kotahi said the signal's timings will be monitored for some time to ensure they are working as intended, and tweaked if necessary.

NZTA Central and Lower South Island regional manager infrastructure delivery Sean Walsh said the traffic signals will help to create gaps in the traffic, making it easier to cross the highway whether travelling by cars, bikes, scooters or on foot.

“Construction has gone smoothly since July 2023 and work will soon be fully completed, with some line-marking and landscaping to come.”

It also means back to business as usual for the businesses along SH1.

“It has been a long time at reduced speeds and blockages on side roads so some normal traffic flows around here will be quite nice,” Thompson said.

The lights have improved access onto State Highway 1 but won’t solve the north-south bottleneck around the Ashburton/Hakatere River Bridge.

The Ashburton District Council’s view is that the proposed second Ashburton/Hakatere Bridge on the Chalmers Road route, east of the current State Highway 1 bridge, will ease the congestion on State Highway 1 – which is why they are advocating for the Government to fund its construction.

The project is awaiting Government approval and funding, and the council anticipates construction to start in 2025/26.

Other improvements from the Tinwald corridor project included upgrading the rail crossing adjacent to the intersection and work along Melcombe Street and the Viaduct.

Despite new signage highlighting the height-restricted viaduct, it has already caught out several motorists and shows the visible signs of being hit multiple times since it reopened to traffic on March 15.

By Jonathan Leask