Signal solution: Lights for Queenstown bottleneck


Traffic lights are favoured to fix Frankton’s heavily congested BP roundabout.

Government boffins confirm lights are not just being considered for the state highway bottleneck - they’re leaning towards the idea.

NZ Transport Agency planning manager Tony Sizemore, a former Queenstowner based in Dunedin, says: “It’s not just a simple ‘let’s rip it out and put a set of lights up’.”

Buses, cyclists and pedestrians have to be considered too, he says.

He adds: “The thing that would probably lean us towards signals is the pedestrian movements.”

The BP roundabout’s a shocker at peak times of the year, with tailbacks stretching hundreds of metres.

Within the South Island only Christchurch would be worse.

Queenstown’s community has previously shouted down big city traffic light proposals - and some are keen to pick up the baton.

Former councillor and long-time Frankton resident Hudson Turnbull, says: “I’d be against standard traffic lights anywhere in the district - like anyone else.

“A visitor town like ours really should resist having normal, big city traffic lights as long as possible.”

The need to replace the existing BP roundabout is gathering speed.

Sizemore says it’s woefully inadequate at peak times and traffic volume growth on Frankton Road is “pretty out there”. The latest data show a jump of almost 17 per cent in four years.

“It’s a single lane roundabout - it’s got that half-arsed second through-lane which doesn’t work that well.”

Historic planning work shows traffic lights will give “quite a significant amount of relief”, he says - but the information needs updating.

An enlarged roundabout would be more dangerous for pedestrians because of faster traffic flows.

Sizemore says: “Every time I sit there I look in horror as people take their lives in their hands dashing across between the cars.’

Turnbull has shot back to prominence in recent weeks as part of a lobby group pushing the agency to adopt a different route for the replacement Kawarau Falls bridge.

He agrees the BP roundabout’s dangerous and proposes a temporary, low-cost solution.

It’s traffic lights - but with a twist.

He suggests putting temporary lights on trolleys at all four entry points to the roundabout.

When traffic backs up the coordinated lights are turned on to drip-feed straight-through traffic.

Halting straight-ahead traffic from Lake Hayes to Queenstown allows Kawarau Falls bridge traffic to “escape”, he says.

“The people coming into town just have to wait, I’m sorry. And everybody gets their turn.”

Queenstown mayor Vanessa van Uden says the BP roundabout is “the key intersection” in the Wakatipu basin - and it needs urgent improvement.

She says lights will improve traffic volumes, add bus priority and improve safety for cyclists and pedestrians.

“However, it is important that all options be investigated thoroughly.

“We understand that the design work is very much in the early stages and that this together with public consultation will only get really started later this year.”

Having traffic lights replace roundabouts was flagged in Mountain Scene in January - and in the Queenstown council’s draft transport plan.

Last month former mayors Warren Cooper and Sir John Davies detailed their plan to use Frankton’s golf course for a much-needed park-and-ride facility.