NZTA have announced that the Baypark to Bayfair link project will now include a separated pedestrian and cycle underpass at the Bayfair roundabout.
The current underpass was originally due to be closed permanently as part of the Bay Link project, but will continue to stay open until a brand new underpass is built.
Transport Agency Project Team manager John McCarthy says they have listened to the community feedback about losing the existing underpass function and are excited about delivering an underpass that will be used by so many members of the community daily, including shoppers, commuters, cyclists, residents and school children.
“Once completed, the project will provide two options for people walking or cycling to cross State Highway 2. They will either use the new underpass connecting Matapihi Road and Bayfair Shopping Centre or cross at ground level through the centre of the new Bayfair roundabout using the pedestrian crossing at the traffic lights,” says John.
“A detailed design process needs to be completed before construction of the new underpass can begin, but we intend to integrate the new underpass with the current project.”
The new underpass will be constructed alongside the old underpass allowing a safe route throughout the project. Once the underpass is operational, the old underpass will be infilled to accommodate the weight of the new Bayfair flyover approach ramps.
On average, more than 500 people use the underpass each day, and the number of cyclists using the underpass in the past seven years has tripled, a trend that is likely to increase, says John.
“The new underpass aligns with the wider Tauranga Transport Programme and Tauranga City Council’s Tauranga Cycle Action Plan, seeking to encourage people out of their cars and enable them to make safe and healthy travel choices.
“Shopping areas on both sides of the state highway at Bayfair and Owens Places are increasing, and higher density residential developments in the area will see more people living in this area and wanting to cross the state highway.”
“We are working with city and regional councils and are making good progress on public transport options in this area and the SH2 Maunganui Road corridor, as part of the Public Transport Blueprint and the Tauranga Transport Plan,” says John.
The initial cost for the new underpass is estimated to be $13million, with the final cost to be determined once the detailed design is complete. Tauranga City Council will also be contributing to the underpass.
Rick Curach, Chair of the Tauranga City Council Transport Committee and regular user of the underpass, acknowledged the dedication of those who campaigned for the underpass to remain.
“It’s reassuring to see decisive action in response to the public voice, and to see the Transport Agency adapting their project to make it safer and easier for more people to travel through this area.”
Cycle advocacy group Bike Tauranga Chair Kevin Kerr was pleased with the news and acknowledged the community in the Transport Agency’s decision.
“The community has pushed and pushed to have an underpass option in the Bay Link project, and it’s great that they have been listened to,” says Kevin.
The number of pedestrians, cyclists, mobility and people with prams/pushchairs using the underpass in 2017 has doubled since 2011.
The Baypark to Bayfair is designed to separate local and state highway traffic, improving safety and access, and walking and cycling connections. The key features include the construction of two flyovers and improvements to the SH29A and Truman Lane roundabout, and the Bayfair roundabout.