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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

Ashburton’s new Walnut Ave traffic signals will be switched on tonight (Friday), marking two major milestones – the start of safer journeys through the Mid-Canterbury township 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 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 this afternoon.

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 says with the new traffic lights being turned on and work wrapping up in the coming days, it will be the ninth of the Government’s NZUP transport projects completed and providing better transport options for growing communities 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.

The rural town centres of Tinwald to the south of Ashburton  and West Melton to the north are also benefiting from intersection upgrades to improve safety, with work on them progressing well, he says. 

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, says Mr Caygill.

“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.

Ashburton Intermediate School pupils check out the operation of the new safe KiwiRail crossing point in Ashburton: Left to right Callum Tait, Madeleine Howden, Georgia Scammell, Zara McGillen  and Ofa Pongia.

Ashburton’s new traffic lights will be switched on Friday evening, aiming for between 7 and 8 pm.  The switch has to occur at a time of low traffic volumes as traffic will be stopped in all directions for a short period to remove the roundabout’s road cones.

While the majority of the work is complete after just over a year of work, contractors will continue completing some minor landscaping and finishing work over the next few days.

More information about the NZ Upgrade Programme can be found: New Zealand Upgrade Programme – Transport – All updates | Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency ( link)

 Walnut Ave NZ Upgrade safety improvements: link)