Work is starting on a new intersection to a growing New Zealand Defence Force site along a traffic pinch point in the lower North Island.
A roundabout will be built at the entrance to the Ōhakea air force base, 20 minutes from Palmerston North, so the about 1000 staff there have an safer daily battle with state highway traffic.
The work will take 12 to 18 months as part of a project costing about $9 million, shared by Waka Kotahi and the Defence Force, that also includes a cycle and pedestrian path between Ōhakea and Bulls.
More than 15,000 vehicles a day skirt through the slalom of orange plastic poles that keep motorists on course at the intersection of State Highway 3 and the road to Ōhakea, Pukenui Road.
It is a high-crash area - more than 80 were recorded in the decade to 2020 - and one that worries Ōhakea base commander group captain Rob Shearer.
"This was one of the biggest risks we were holding on base - basically every day our people were having to make critical decisions entering and leaving base," he said.
"We have had injury-related crashes relating to the entrance here at Ōhakea. Consequently, we're very concerned about the safety of our people."
Shearer was one of several dozen people at Monday morning's ceremony to mark the start of work on the new roundabout.
With the addition of about 200 personnel from No 3 squadron to Ōhakea, home to the new P-8A poseidon aircraft, getting in and out of the base is not getting easier, as Shearer has found.
"We were going to a community meeting in Sanson to discuss the roundabout, and it was raining.
"When I came into the intersection, with all the water [and] the lights I found myself having to make three independent decisions to safely get out into SH3 there.
"I thought, 'Wow, our people are having to make these kinds of decisions every day of the week'. It's risky."
Shearer was not sure how many Defence Force employees bike to work, but was sure it would be a more attractive option when the pathway opened.
"Rather than having to cycle on the dangerous curbs of the state highway, they're got a dedicated access.
"It's good for the community and a green initiative. I want more people cycling to base."
Waka Kotahi project manager Gareth Howie said contractor Fulton Hogan would create a temporary road around the roundabout work to minimise disruption.
The new roundabout would have two lanes at its three approaches, and would be safer than what was in store now for vehicles leaving Ōhakea.
"To come out Pukenui Road, you've got to navigate a T-intersection in a 70kmh zone. A few years ago it was a 100kmh zone. That's going south.
"You also have to navigate a northbound on-slip going towards Bulls."
That might sound complicated - and it is.
Local politicians such as Rangitīkei District mayor Andy Watson welcomed the project.
"It's been a long time coming because as Ōhakea has continued to grow we recognised the difficulties of getting people on and off base safely."
Manawatū District mayor Helen Worboys would like to see more improvements to the stretch of SH3.
"Locals know you just don't go to the intersection. You find the back roads. From a council point of view that's our challenge, because that extra traffic, the heavy trucks etc, put the pressure on our rural roads, which our ratepayers than have to pay for.
"We're looking or solution for that," she said.
"This is one step. We'd really like next to have a look at the main intersection at Sanson with SH1."