Amidst calls to slash the speed limit on many New Zealand roads, fuming West Aucklanders are campaigning to go faster on one of theirs.
They’ve set up an online petition to get the four lane Northwestern Highway’s speed limit back up to 100kmh, where it was before the billion dollar roadworks for the Waterview Tunnel began.
Construction has been completed but an 80kmh speed limit, considered by many to be temporary, was made permanent — a decision drivers of the sleek new road have deemed a “ludicrous” recipe for road rage.
In April, the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) announced that 80kmh would be the permanent speed limit for the 8km stretch of highway between Rosebank Rd and Spaghetti Junction, spanning the Waterview Tunnel’s entrance.
Long time Westie Bevan Gracie said driving down the Northwestern left him fed up now, and that he was sceptical the lower limit would improve safety.
“I think the frustration you feel going so slowly on that road makes it more dangerous,” he said.
His fellow West Auckland motorist Saten Sharma, who signed the petition, said driving 80kmh on the newly-upgraded road “feels like you’re not even moving”.
“On weekends, the most frustrating thing is it’s empty, and you’re still doing 80kmh,” he said.
“Are we saying our drivers are so unqualified they can’t drive close to 100kmh on the motorway?”
The petition to raise the new speed, which had more than 10,000 signatures to date and would get submitted to NZTA if it reached 15,000, posed the question of why a “brand new four lane motorway” could not handle a higher speed limit.
NZTA’s system design manager Brett Gliddon justified it as “worldwide best practice” to have 80kmh on approaches to tunnels, to reduce the risk of crashes.
He said the agency had been “monitoring the operational and safety performance” of the network since the tunnel opened. However, he couldn’t comment on whether the petition might impact change.
MOTORWAY SPEEDS GOING UP ELSEWHERE
The Tauranga Eastern Link and parts of the Waikato Expressway would be the first roads that motorists can travel on at 110kmh.
Macindoe said higher speed limits would be “both safe and appropriate” on roads with at least two lanes in each direction, a median barrier, no significant curves, and no access to neighbouring properties.
HORSES FOR COURSES
However, calls for speed reductions on many New Zealand roads remain.
Earlier this year, police advocated for the speed limit on the Coromandel’s State Highway 25A to be lowered from 100kmh to 80kmh. Thames roading sergeant Jim Corbett said annual crash tallies of 70 or more were not uncommon on the road, and that high speeds were a contributing factor.
Residents associations in Canterbury have also called for the same speed reduction on some rural roads in their area, citing safety concerns. Last year, Christchurch City Council cut its inner city speed limit down to 30kmh for most streets.
Cantabrian mother of two Lucinda Rees has been campaigning for speed limits outside schools to be lowered to 40kmh “nationally, across the board” for the last ten years.
She said she was against speed limits being raised on any New Zealand road — including four lane motorways — because the “education and standard of Kiwi drivers just isn’t up to it”.
“I think raising speed limit will just make the road toll even higher,” she said.
But West Auckland driver Graham Wakefield said the “ludicrous” 80kmh section of the Northwestern needed to be moved back up to 100kmh.
“The quality of construction and the number of lanes each way positively begs for it,” he said.