A notorious State Highway 1 black spot is about to become much safer, with the NZ Transport Agency permanently closing the southbound passing lane on State Highway 1 between Bulls and Sanson from this Friday.
State Highway 1 between Bulls and Sanson has had six crashes in the past five years and has a high likelihood of further crashes that could result in serious injury or death.
The NZTA’s regional transport systems manager Mark Owen says the main concern is access to Ohakea Air Force Base, at the intersection of Pukenui Road and State Highway 1.
“This is a simple change that will almost certainly save lives. In its current layout, too many people are being put at risk around this intersection. We know that some road users may feel inconvenienced, but our priority has to be the safety of everyone using the road,” Owen says.
At peak times the queue for right-turning traffic into Ohakea Air Force Base extends into the right-hand lane of the southbound passing lane on the approach to the base. With the speed of cars increasing as they approach the end of the passing lane, the potential for a crash is high.
“We know that in its current form, this intersection is another accident waiting to happen unless changes are made,” Owen says.
“Too often, people have grown up around unsafe features on our roads and simply accepted them. But, as the Transport Agency continues to make New Zealand’s roads safer, people may start to notice changes to otherwise familiar features. It’s all part of our ongoing efforts to reduce the number of serious accidents on our roads.”
The removal of the passing lane is intended to remove the risk from right-turning traffic queued for Ohakea from extending into the passing lane and discourage high speeds at the end of the passing lane.
“Police support this initiative and believe that the removal of the passing lane will significantly improve road-user safety along that stretch of the highway,” Central District road policing manager inspector Brett Calkin says. “We have regularly attended serious crashes in that area and have been talking to NZTA and RNZAF about the issue for a number of years trying to find a workable long-term solution.”
The right-turn acceleration lane will be lengthened to accommodate the Ohakea traffic exiting towards Palmerston North and the right turn into the base will also be longer. The northbound passing lane won’t be affected.
Wider lanes and centrelines in this section of the road will reduce the likelihood of head-on and overtaking crashes (there were five over this route in the past five years) and improve safety for cyclists.
Resurfacing work is underway, and the new road layout, including closure of the southbound passing lane, will be made permanent from 15 March.