A temporary toll waiver will be placed on Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Rd due to works, kiwifruit season
The toll waiver will be in place for westbound traffic on the Tauranga Eastern Link from May 16 to June 3 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays. Photo/NZME
Tolls will be temporarily lifted on the Tauranga Eastern Link during the afternoon rush hour from next week to ease congestion during works near the Te Puke highway.
The highway, near Pah Rd, will be reduced to one lane for three weeks starting May 16 as work continues to stabilize the bank of the Kaituna River to minimize erosion and preserve native fish, a the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency said in a statement.
The work coincides with the busy harvesting season for kiwifruit, and for this reason the agency said it has approval to remove the toll on the Tauranga Eastern Link to ease congestion on the highway.
The toll waiver will be in place for westbound traffic only from May 16 to June 3 between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. weekdays.
The agency’s regional director for infrastructure delivery, Jo Wilton, said work had progressed since October on stabilizing the bank in front of Tuhourangi Marae with the next stage the installation of 50 steel sheet piles.
“We understand that this is an extremely busy time for the kiwifruit harvest and we have considered all possible options to delay this work, but the site cannot be left exposed during the winter or there is a risk that the road slips.
“Due to the weight of the crane used for the sheet piles, it must be at least 6m away from the bank, otherwise it could cause significant damage. So, for safety reasons, we have to close a lane to allow more space for the crane,” Wilton said.
Ground anchors and sheet piling will reinforce the edge of the river. Fifty-two anchors have already been drilled 15 m below the highway. The next step is to build a 42m long retaining wall using over 50 steel sheet piles, each 20m deep.
These will be driven vertically into the bank, set back from the edge of the river.
The Te Puke Expressway is already experiencing significant travel delays in the late afternoon and early evening and for approximately three weeks one lane will be closed in front of the site and manual stops/starts will be in place.
The agency was working with Tapuika, the Western Bay of Plenty District Council and NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated to make the road safer and develop a solution for the Te Puke community.
“The stop/go team will actively monitor traffic, particularly between 4 and 7 p.m. and outside these hours traffic lights will be in place,” Wilton said.
“With shift workers from orchards and packing centers on their commute to work, as well as trucks transporting freshly picked fruit from orchards to packing centers, we expect significant delays.
“Alternate route is Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Rd and for the duration of the lane closure we have approval to waive tolls on the westbound lanes of Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Rd towards Tauranga, while this work is in progress, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m. on weekdays,” Wilton said.
Gary Allis, deputy chief executive of Western Bay of Plenty District Council, said it was great that everyone working together found a solution during the kiwifruit harvest.
“Removing tolls on the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Rd in the afternoon will make a significant difference during rush hour by providing people with an alternative route.
“This is a good result and the delay of a few weeks in the start of work has also reduced the levels of disturbance during the kiwifruit harvest.
The free period is intended to entice anyone heading to Tauranga to use the toll highway, trying to reduce traffic and pressure on the Te Puke highway.
NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated managing director Colin Bond said while his preference was not to disrupt roads throughout the busy harvesting season, he appreciated the toll-free period offered by Waka Kotahi to help mitigate delays.
People traveling on the Te Puke highway are advised to exercise extra caution when crossing the site, respecting the temporary speed limit of 30 km/h, traffic management and instructions from staff.
– The toll-free period will run from May 16 to June 3 for westbound traffic only, between 4 p.m. and 7 p.m., Monday to Friday, while stop/go is in place on the Te Puke Expressway.