18 Jun 2019

Residents want Haywards Hill upgrade fast-tracked, fear fatalities

7:48 pm on 18 June 2019

Road users are pleading with the Transport Agency to fast-track safety improvement on a busy Wellington highway.

The Haywards Hill interchange / State Highway 58 in Lower Hutt.

The Haywards Hill interchange / State Highway 58 in Lower Hutt. Photo: Supplied / Downer

State Highway 58, also known as Haywards Hill, connects the Hutt Valley to Porirua, and the AA has described it as the most dangerous road in the Wellington region.

Over the past decade there have been over 200 crashes causing four deaths and 17 serious injuries on the section of road that joins SH2 and the Pauatahanui roundabout.

It was supposed to have a raft of safety upgrades finished by the time Transmission Gully opened next year, but the plan has been delayed.

Geordie Cassin is the chair of AA Wellington District Council, which represents Wellington AA members. He told the Greater Wellington Regional Council transport committee this morning it "beggared belief" that the improvements would not be done before Transmission Gully was up and running.

"We have made numerous submissions on State Highway 58, we have met with the agency to talk about this on many occasions, seeking improvements to safety on the road. Yet today, it remains the most dangerous State Highway in the Wellington region."

The package of improvements included straightening dangerous curves, improving intersections, installing median barriers and lowering the speed limit.

Mr Cassin said the AA supported the lowering of the speed limit to 80km/h - which happened last year - but was under the impression that the rest of the work would closely follow.

He said given the scrapping of the Petone-Grenada link as well, the agency should consider making the highway four lanes, or putting in more passing lanes to ease congestion.

It wants the council to lobby government for more money so the rest of the improvements could be rolled out quickly.

Ken McAdam has lived on Flightys Road off State Highway 58 - on the Porirua side - for 20 years.

He said without all the changes happening at once the lower speed limit had actually made it more dangerous to pull out of his road because cars followed each other more closely and there was less gaps in the traffic.

"I do it ... and I don't like it. All it takes is for that risk to be the wrong risk and there's drastic results.

"I've seen a couple [of crashes] within the last year and they've both been cars that need to be put on tow trucks ... they're not just fender benders."

He said he wanted roundabouts at Flightys Road and Moonshine Road - something that was in the original plan - but if that was not possible, there must be other, quicker, solutions.

"I mean we sit in rooms with minds that are supposedly far greater than mine on roading issues, and I would expect someone to be able to come up with a solution that at least covers the safety issues in the interim."

An estimated 8000 more cars a day will use SH58 when Transmission Gully opens and the AA quoted an NZTA 2016 report which said the number of high-severity incidents would likely double with this volume.

Mr McAdam said when that happened it would only be a matter of time before someone was killed.

"It's more than just the normal 'oh I can't get out of my street', it's becoming dangerous."

NZTA Wellington transport systems manager Mark Owen was at the meeting and said the original plan's timing was always going to be a challenge.

He said Transmission Gully construction on the Porirua side of SH58 and the development of a quarry in the same area meant also doing safety upgrades there could create congestion.

"It's a matter of doing what's appropriate. So we had an ambition to make all the safety improvements but with the challenges around land acquisition and consenting, often they can take long than predicted and that's one of the challenges we've got on this section of highway."

He said safety improvements on the Hutt Valley side of the highway would still go ahead with a construction contract due to be awarded soon, however the other side's future - from the summit down to Transmission Gully - was less certain, as funding for it was not yet available.

"[That stretch] is subject to consents and property so we can't move very easily when we've still got to buy property and sort through the consents."

He could not confirm whether the agency had tried to buy any land at this stage or whether the land would include houses.