The ‘teardrop’ formation at the Landing Road bridge roundabout is to be retained and a comprehensive traffic study initiated to address traffic congestion issues in Whakatāne.
After considering a report on community feedback about the roundabout at last week’s Whakatāne District Council Projects and Services Committee meeting, a majority of elected members voted in favour of formalising the revised roundabout formation, which provides right-of-way for vehicles travelling into Whakatāne. The teardrop shape was introduced late last year as a trial to address traffic congestion, which was expected to worsen during the closure of State Highway 2 while the Pekatahi Bridge was re-decked earlier this year. Traffic flow monitoring confirmed a significant reduction in travel times for motorists entering Whakatāne from the west, particularly during the peak morning commute period.
Committee members acknowledged that the revised roundabout layout had caused negative impacts for some residents living on Landing Road, Hinemoa Street, Victoria Avenue and in southern parts of the township, but accepted the report’s conclusions that congestion and safety issues elsewhere were manageable.
Community feedback sought following the committee’s previous meeting in July also confirmed strong support for the retention of the teardrop. A survey distributed to 227 homes in the areas likely to have been inconvenienced by the change saw 20 responses supporting the retention of the teardrop formation and 16 in opposition, while social media feedback was more than 4:1 in favour.
Speaking to his report, Transportation Manager Martin Taylor said the teardrop roundabout was “serving a positive purpose overall”, and removing it would mean reverting back to the problems previously experienced at the western entrance to the town.
“A comprehensive traffic study will provide a greater understanding of traffic flows throughout the urban area and guide improvements to the roading network,” he said. “In the short-term, that would see Landing Road roundabout improvements and associated road widening undertaken in the first three years of the 2018-28 Long Term Plan, subject to Council approval, which would address the negative impacts currently being experienced by some residents.”
Mayor Tony Bonne said the traffic study was the key to a long-term solution to congestion issues. “Our traffic congestion is minor compared to the issues faced in other parts of the country, but we do need to have a comprehensive study and have the NZ Transport Agency involved so that effective long-term solutions, including a second bridge, are implemented as quickly as possible.”