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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

To help reduce the delays on the Te Puke Highway caused by roadworks near Pah Road, eastbound road users will be able to use SH2 Tauranga East Link toll-free during the morning peak from Monday 23 May.

The Te Puke Highway was reduced to one lane from Monday 16 May, and will remain at one lane past the site with manual stop/go in place for up to three weeks. This is to complete urgent work to stabilise the riverbank opposite Tuhourangi Marae.

For the duration of the highway lane closure, we have already removed the toll on the alternative route, the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road on WESTBOUND lanes (heading towards Tauranga) between 4pm and 7pm weekdays.

In addition to the afternoon westbound toll waver we are now offering toll free travel EASTBOUND between 6am and 9am, Mon – Fri starting next Monday 23rd May until 3rd June.

Removing the tolls may help encourage traffic onto the Tauranga Eastern Link and reduce queues on the Te Puke Highway.

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Regional Manager Infrastructure Delivery, Jo Wilton, says since October 2021 work has progressed on stabilising the riverbank opposite Tuhourangi Marae to minimise erosion and preserve indigenous fish in the Kaituna River. The next step is to install 50 steel sheet piles.

“We understand this is an extremely busy time for Kiwifruit harvest and we have looked into every possibly option to delay this work, but the site can’t be left exposed over winter or there is a risk the road will slip away.

“Due to the weight of the crane being used for the sheet piling, it must be set back at least six metres from the riverbank otherwise it could cause significant damage. So, for safety reasons, we need to close a lane to allow extra space for the crane,” says Ms Wilton.

Soil anchors and sheet piles will reinforce the river’s edge. 52 anchors have already been drilled 15m below the highway. The next step is constructing a 42-metre-long retaining wall using over 50 steel sheet piles [each 20 metres deep]. These are being driven vertically into the bank, back from the river’s edge.

Waka Kotahi is working in partnership with Tapuika, 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 is actively monitoring traffic, especially between 4pm and 7pm and outside of these hours traffic lights are in place. With shift workers from orchards and packhouses on their commute home, as well as trucks hauling freshly picked fruit from orchards to the packhouses, road users should expect delays.

Western Bay of Plenty District Council Deputy CEO and Group Manager Infrastructure Services, Gary Allis says it is great everyone working together has produced a solution during the kiwifruit harvest. The waiving of tolls on the Tauranga Eastern Link Toll Road will make a significant difference during peak traffic times by providing people an alternative route.

“This is a good outcome and the delay to the start of the works by a few weeks has also lowered the levels of disruption during the kiwifruit harvest.”

NZ Kiwifruit Growers Incorporated Chief Executive Officer, Colin Bond says “while NZKGI’s preference is to have no disruption to roads throughout the busy harvest season, we appreciate the toll free periods offered by Waka Kotahi to help mitigate any delays.”

People travelling on the Te Puke Highway are asked to take extra care when travelling through the site by following the temporary 30km/h speed limit, traffic management and directions from staff.

We appreciate this will cause some disruption and thank you in advance for your patience.