Ashburton’s new Walnut Avenue traffic signals have been switched on and mark two major milestones – the start of safer journeys through Ashburton and the completion of the ninth project in the Government’s NZ Upgrade Programme (NZUP).
James Caygill, director regional relationships for Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency, joined mana whenua and representatives of KiwiRail, contracting company Fulton Hogan and Ashburton District Council to celebrate the project’s completion this afternoon. Pupils from Ashburton Intermediate also attended to test out the new safe crossing points over the rail tracks.
Many road users tooted their support of the upgraded intersection as the key players celebrated the completion.
The project saw two roundabouts at the intersections of West Street (SH1) and East Street with Walnut Avenue replaced with traffic signals, upgrades to the railway level crossing, and much improved walking and biking facilities.
Mr Caygill said with the new traffic lights being turned on and work wrapping up, it will be the ninth of government’s NZUP transport projects to be completed and would provide better transport options for the growing community and the freight industry.
The $8.7 billion NZ Upgrade programme aims to provide growing communities with better transport choices and help people get where they’re going safely. Nine projects are complete, $2.1 billion worth of projects are under construction and a major project starts north of Auckland next month.
Rural town centres such as Tinwald to the south of Ashburton and West Melton to the north will also benefiting from intersection upgrades to improve safety, with work on them progressing well, he said.
Along with improving safety, reducing delays and making it easier for larger vehicles and trucks to travel through the intersections, the improvements will also make it safer for pupils getting to and from school on foot and wheels, Mr Caygill said.
“Previously the intersections felt dangerous for school students crossing the road. Now we hope more students will choose to walk, scoot or bike to school, knowing they can do so more safely.”
Mark Heissenbuttel, general manager South Island operations for KiwiRail, encouraged all pedestrians using the new rail crossing to use the maze and the electronic gates to cross the line safely. “The tracks are for trains,” he reiterated.