Congestion continues despite Shotover St traffic light tweaks

by Lauren Pattemore - Jul 06, 2023

Long traffic queues continue along Lake Esplanade and into Fernhill Road more than a week since the council said it had contacted the national transport agency to flag a potential issue with light phasing on Shotover Street.

Today, a Waka Kotahi spokesperson confirmed the agency had been contacted by the Queenstown Lakes District Council and had tried to improve traffic flow along the state highway that runs through Queenstown's town centre.

Tweaks have been made to the way the new traffic lights and pedestrian crossing at the intersection of Shotover and Rees Streets are running.

“Previously, the pedestrian lights phase would operate every cycle between 8am and 6pm regardless of whether a pushbutton was pressed or not. We have now made it so the button must be pressed to place demand for the crossing,” the spokesperson says.

Waka Kotahi has also adjusted traffic signals to increase the priority for northbound vehicles, meaning “the site adapts to heavy traffic heading north more aggressively than before”.

But, completing things, the agency notes the zebra crossing above Fergburger is also causing traffic to back up to the new Shotover lights, which means sometimes keeping traffic moving through the lights can be "counterproductive".

The spokesperson says the organisation is aware of significant congestion in the area, and have CCTV operating at the site to monitor how the traffic is moving and the impact of the adjusted light phasing.

However, despite all these efforts, at 10.30am today traffic was crawling towards the Shotover Street lights, backed up to the old YHA Lakefront Backpackers, 900 metres from the intersection.

A nearby road worker says traffic had been backed up onto Fernhill Road earlier in the week, while a motorist, confirmed with Crux via email they have still been experiencing significant delays this week, despite the involvement of Waka Kotahi's Wellington Traffic Operations Centre.

“Don’t think the new light system is working," they said, "(The) queue for town started at one mile roundabout at 2pm today.”

There are also other factors at play, with Lake Street and Man Street still closed for upgrades, meaning residents on that side of Queenstown only have one route into town.

Crux earlier reported further delays on this work, with the QLDC saying the route will now not re-open before July 10.

Fernhill and Sunshine Bay Community Association chairperson Simone Bray told Crux she has concerns about what would happen in an emergency, with roads consistently chocked up.

Council's draft design plans for Stage 3 of the arterial road project, with a fourth road added to One Mile roundabout.

Ms Bray also queried whether the unbudgeted 'stage three' of the council's arterial road project should be bumped up to become 'stage two'.

Stage three involves linking Hay Street with the One Mile roundabout as well as adding a fourth connecting road to the roundabout.

QLDC's arterial road project aims to reduce traffic and congestion in the town centre by allowing more connecting roads, however it's proving pricier than the QLDC budgeted for. 

Stage one of the arterial road project has had several budget blowouts, the cost of which is born by ratepayers, going firstly from $49.5 million to $86 million, and in May, up to $108 million, with QLDC councillors voting to approve it in a public-excluded decision.

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