Monday, 7 February 2011

When is a motorway not a motorway?

When is a motorway not a motorway?

by Peter Dowden

When in the late 1950s a half-decent replacement for Mt Cargill Road
was built over Leith Saddle, it seems hardly surprising that it was
termed a 'motorway'. It must have made quite an impression with its
sweeping curves and a startling number of overpasses.

I remember the 'Motorway Begins' signs (the size of the side of an
aircraft hanger) and the urgent requests to 'Reduce speed' at each
end; there were even 'two-way' warning signs to advise those visitors
unaccustomed to two-lane autobahnen that there may be someone coming
the other way in that second lane.

But it entirely escaped my attention when all the clutter of these
signs was removed, and no doubt melted down to roof about 20 South
Auckland state houses. Was it last year or ten years ago? The DCC
street sign at Pine Hill points to 'Dunedin Waitati Hwy'. What have
they done to our motorway?

I wrote to Simon Underwood of the New Zealand Transport Agency, and
here is his explanation:

"In terms of the traffic regulations, that is, how the public use it
(Transport Act), it is a highway; and that is because we do not sign
it as a motorway.

"The land corridor itself is motorway (Government Roading Powers Act),
and it is correct for the district plan to show it as such in terms of
its designations (Resource Management Act).

"The naming of a road is un-encumbered by the above and may be named
by the local authority (Local Government Act).

"In a nutshell, aside from the traffic regulations, it has all the
legal protections of a motorway (for access/utility control), but
because we don't sign it as a motorway, as far as traffic use is
concerned normal traffic controls measures apply. Note, you still
can't cycle or walk on it, because we've put up signs specifically to
dis-allow this."

(Simon didn't mention that the 'no walking' and 'no cycling' signs at
the northern end have been shifted from Waitati corner to the Waitati
Valley Rd and Donalds Hill Rd intersection; this must be welcomed by
cyclists doing the circuit of the back roads).

So there you have it. It's a highway, unless you want to install a
farm gate or perhaps run a water pipeline or power line along or
across it. We can ride our horses and bullock wagons and herd our
flocks of sheep and cattle over it. We can stop and answer our
cellphones, and perform U-turns (very carefully, of course) to go back
and
get whatever we were told by cellphone to go back and get.


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