Some of the winding corners on Thornton Road will be eased as Whakatāne District Council starts major safety improvements on the busy road.

Council Manager Transportation Martin Taylor said ensuring the community can travel the district safely is one of the highest priorities for Council.

“Thornton Road is incredibly unforgiving of the small mistakes people may make when driving and is second only to Wainui Road in having the highest number of crashes in our district,” he said. 

“Now that we have upgraded and improved Wainui Road, it’s time to turn our attention to Thornton Road.”

Mr Taylor said there are two sections of Thornton Road where the curves are tighter than others and these have tended to catch drivers out, resulting in serious injuries and fatalities.

“As the main route between Whakatāne and Tauranga, the road is very busy, with people travelling at high speeds. Couple that with some tight, difficult to navigate corners and you have an incredibly punishing stretch of road.”

The first phase of the project will see the corners between Smith and Walker Roads eased, the road shoulder widened and the centre medium between lanes widened too.

The work will begin next week and is estimated to finish in April, weather dependant, with a break for Christmas.

“People make mistakes, but a small error shouldn’t result in a life-changing injury or death,” said Mr Taylor.

“It’s our hope that these safety improvements help bring those negative statistics down.”

The second phase of the project will ease some of the curves near Blueberry Corner, this work is planned for construction in two years’ time.

Summer is the best time for Council to do road works, as the warmer, drier air allows the new seal to dry quickly and to a better standard than if the air temperature was cold. 

While the work is underway, there will be traffic delays and people are encouraged to take alternative routes or plan for a longer travel time.