Progress can come at a cost – an inconvenience. In this case the cost is noise, cones, barriers, dust, dirt, machines and traffic snarls on the main street of Greerton. And a few carparks cannibalised by roadworks.
“Take away carparks in front of a retailer’s shop and they don’t like it,” says Sally Benning, the Greerton Village Mainstreet manager. Of course a lost carpark is a lost customer; is a lost sale.
It’s a tricky one for the village retailers. “Because the project is not something we ever wanted,” says Sally. “It’s not as if it’s short-term pain for our long-term gain.”
In Peter Turmer’s case, it’s bewilderment.
“Various people I know in Greerton all said to me they have no idea what’s going on and why it’s being done,” says the Pyes Pa resident. Peter is a regular letter writer to The Weekend Sun on things he thinks haven’t been done, should be done or could have been done better around town.
Recently he’s been gazing on the roadworks; the ‘progress’ in Greerton’s main street. And all he sees is disruption, inconvenience, stress and irritation for the motorists who have to shoehorn themselves through peak-time bottlenecks in Greerton twice a day.
“What they’re doing is crazy,” he says. “I saw an ambulance headed to Greerton – he was forced to join the queue outside Gilmours and do the crawl like everyone else. If he wanted to get through he was knackered.”
It’s all about safety. The roadworks which began in March and will continue until December will “make it safer for everyone who moves through this area” according to the Tauranga City Council, including pedestrians, cyclists, mobility scooters and cars. The council consulted, shared options, invited feedback and came up with a plan it believes is best to deliver the desired outcomes.
It involves a solid median along the middle of Cameron Road, a new roundabout at Pooles Road, a new signaled pedestrian crossing to replace the zebra crossing opposite the carpark on Cameron Road, narrowing the carriageway to one lane and removing the right hand turn out of Cornwall Street.
This is all aimed at returning the ‘conflict’ area – a blacktop battleground - to a passive, efficient, safe carriageway. Apparently single lanes becoming two lanes and then merging again unhinged some motorists, turned them competitive and aggressive, causing them to race and overtake. Well, they’re fixing that.
There’s also some sensitivity. Peter made some inquiries about the impact on retailing in Greerton. He claims he was told “people might find the shopping at the Crossing more convenient”.
Naturally that suggestion “distressed” Sally. She did her own investigations and says she couldn’t confirm the comment being made.
Back out on the asphalt, they’re also fixing those narrow double lanes on the Chadwick/Cameron Road intersection roundabout – ranked the second worst road accident spot in the city with 70 accidents in five years. They’re going to reduce the ‘conflict’ areas.
And, says TCC, it will improve general road safety and traffic flows while retaining the village feel.
“We have to accept they have done modelling on it and have reached conclusions based on it – we wait with bated breath to see if they are the right conclusions,” says Sally.
She can’t argue against safety. “But we will have to wait and see if it translates into a better commercial area and a safer place.”
As for Peter’s ambulance stuck in the queue, what’s the likelihood of a life-threatening event occurring and the ambulance and defibrillator being stuck in traffic on the other side of Greerton?
No-one’s at risk; lives aren’t in danger according to St John Western Bay territory manager Ross Clarke.
“Response times haven’t been affected – and if we need to get somewhere quickly we have lights and sirens. And a driving public that’s willing to make way for us.”
But manoeuvring through the funnel that is Cameron Road at Greerton right now, you can only go as fast as the vehicle in front.
The council says the reduced road width is only temporary and when the work is completed, the road width will allow a vehicle to pull over to let an emergency vehicle past. On some narrow sections they may have to wait, but this is no different to similar road layouts in other parts of the city.