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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

New safer permanent speed limits are just around the corner on a 19km stretch of SH94 from the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

The new speed limits will take effect from Wednesday, 11 August, says Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

“We want to prevent people being killed or seriously injured in crashes on this steep and challenging section of SH94,” says Waka Kotahi Director of Regional Relationships, James Caygill.

“No matter what causes a crash, speed is always a factor in the severity of  crash outcomes. No crash resulting in death or serious injury is acceptable, so it’s important we take every opportunity to address the risk,” he says.

The change is part of a Waka Kotahi initiative identifying highways where lower speed limits could make a big difference in saving people’s lives, and where communities are calling for change. Southland District Council and NZ Police both supported these safer permanent speed limits.

Consultation with iwi, the communities and business operators in Milford Sound/Piopiotahi and Te Anau, residents along the route, road users and stakeholders started about 18 months ago. 

The section of highway between the Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound/Piopiotahi is one of the most mountainous and challenging to drive between Te Anau and Milford Sound.

Between 2009 and 2018 there were 76 crashes between the eastern entrance of the Homer Tunnel and Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. These claimed three lives and seriously injured eight people. Around 40 percent of the 76 crashes occurred in the 2016 and 2018 period, when traffic volumes were high, driven by the pre COVID-19 tourism boom*.

The changes:

  • The current 100km/h speed limits on the eastern approach to the Homer Tunnel (1km) and western approach (2km) and through the Homer Tunnel (1.7km) will be replaced with a variable** 30-60km/h limit.
  • From the western approach of the Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi (14km) an 80km/h limit will replace the existing mix of 100km/h and 80km/h limits.
  • The current 30km/h limit in Milford Sound/Piopiotahi itself will be extended to the east of the Deep Basin Access Road by 500 metres, currently set at 80km/h.

There were 47 submissions received on the speed consultation proposal. These were analysed and considered alongside safety assessments.

“Consultation feedback showed broad but not unanimous support for lower speed limits,” says Mr Caygill. “Some of the submitters wanted other measures to improve safety including addressing dangerous driver behaviour, increased Police enforcement and providing more safe passing opportunities.

“As well as these speed changes, Waka Kotahi has made other major safety improvements over the last three years including bridge widening, safety barriers, and curve signage,” he says.

Confirmed speed limit changes for SH94 Homer Tunnel to Milford Sound/ Piopiotahi:

Location

Current speed limit

New speed limit

1km of highway east of the Homer Tunnel to the eastern tunnel entrance, through the Homer Tunnel (1.7km) and 2km of highway west of the Homer Tunnel to the western tunnel entrance.

100km/h

30-60km/h* variable speed limit

From the where the variable speed limit ends on the western approach to the Homer Tunnel for 14km to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi.

80/100km/h

80km/h

A 500m section of SH94 from Milford Sound/Piopiotahi to east of Deep Water Basin Road.

80km/h

30km/h

Map of new permanent speed limits:

* Before COVID-19, more than a million visitors a year travelled to Milford Sound/Piopiotahi. Between 2014 and 2018 there was a 35 percent rise in the average daily traffic counts on this route, with vehicle numbers per day rising from 670 in 2014 to 1040 in 2018.

**The variable speed limit will be used to safely manage highway issues including weather and rockfall events and vehicle crashes. Variable speed limit operating options are 30/40/60km/h.

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