Legends of the SH2 “corridor”

A local has solved the visibility hazard issue for motorists travelling around the Minden Rd/SH2 roundabout by turning the long grass into hay bales. Photo: Nikki Bruce.

From making hay in a roundabout, to winning Lotto, to the stress of over three hours stuck in gridlock traffic, there have been some epic tales emerge this week along what Waka Kotahi NZTA terms the “SH2 Waihī to Tauranga corridor”.

Efficiently publishing an update on February 2, just as parents were thinking about what to pack into school lunches, NZTA wrote about the corridor becoming “a hive of activity this February”.

Oh no! A hive?

Students starting back at school, many people returning to work, holiday makers taking advantage of the public holidays creating a couple of short weeks  - the NZTA update didn’t really raise too many flags of concern.

Until about paragraph three where the “delays of up to an hour this week” were mentioned, and “are being expected to continue” for … a number of weeks.

What’s this we ask? Weeks? Surely nothing new compared to the last few years? Clearly, yes, it is a great idea for road maintenance crews to take advantage of the settled weather. Surely it won’t affect my travel from A to B?

And then the kicker – this year’s road renewal/resealing programme would result in 20 chipseal sites between Bethlehem and Athenree, presumably on top of the existing sites being worked on. Crew were cracking on.

While the expectation had been that much of this work would have been carried out in the school holidays, the earlier rain has meant works were now shifted into February.

And that’s where things all came to a head on Friday.

The legendary Friday chaos begins

Friday morning, February 9, cars and tempers both heated up, as motorists found themselves caught in a long static snarly snake of traffic into Tauranga along what is becoming a legendary – but not in a good way - corridor.

Traffic built up on Friday, February 9, along SH2 betweeh Bethlehem and Te Puna. Photo: Supplied.

By 9.45am, traffic was reported to be heavily congested between Te Puna and Bethlehem, with a SunLive reader reporting long delays along SH2 all the way to Ōmokoroa.

“It’s built up so much, people need to know they need to allow more travel time if they’re trying to get anywhere,” one SunLive reader phoned in. For those who travel this morning route all the time, it was nothing unexpected

But by 11.37am, traffic was backed up for at least two hours from Bethlehem to Ōmokoroa.

Contractors working on SH2 between Wairoa River Bridge and Te Puna. Photo: Supplied.

Many were immensely frustrated on finally making it through to the other end of the corridor where they discovered the cause of the severe hold-ups.

“The only reason we found for the delays was the roadworks at the base of the northern end of the Wairoa Bridge. Amazing all this causes an hour’s delay at least.”

Little did that motorist know it was going to get even more “amazing” on the return trip later that day.

During the afternoon, the traffic didn’t ease, but continued to build, until finally, school was over for the day, and school buses and hundreds of parents on their school pick-up runs joined the fray.

This was when the chaos really began with stationary traffic backed up from the Bethlehem [Moffat Rd/SH2] roundabout to Bethlehem College.

Cars lined up along Elder Lane waiting to get out onto Moffat Rd on Friday, February 9. Photo: Darren Gedye.

Darren Gedye reported from the college driveway at around 4pm.

“The school buses still haven’t made it to the road [Moffats Rd]. We are still in Elder Lane, which is the school driveway, one-and-a-quarter hours after school finished.”

Out on SH2, traffic was barely moving, with school buses full of students stuck in heat, the sun beating down and no air conditioning. One bus reportedly overheated and broke down between Bethlehem and Te Puna.

School bus legend

But then, amidst the chaos of traffic some moments of magic happened, as individuals rallied to give a hand, amongst them a bus driver “legend’ and a “good Samaritan”.

Very grateful parents say that a school bus driver bought his students water bottles in Bethlehem while the bus was stopped in the gridlock traffic.

Buses lined up waiting to get out of Elder Lane onto Moffat Rd on Friday afternoon, February 9. Photo: Darren Gedye.

“My girls and friends were stuck on a bus in Bethlehem,” says one SunLive reader.

“The school bus driver was so kind to let them get off to have some fresh air and go the dairy, one of their friends went to pay wave and his phone died so couldn't pay. Some kind lady paid for the children's drinks and food.”

“I can't thank you enough for your kind gesture. Three hours home in this heat, and you were their highlight! I hope this reaches the right person.”

Another parent with children on the same bus is also expressing thanks.

“Our bus driver stopped for the kids to get off for some fresh air, and let them go to the dairy. It was a good Samaritan in the dairy that paid $33 for kid's drinks and their phone died when they went to paywave.”

A bus was reported to have overheated and then broke down along SH2 between Bethlehem and Te Puna. Photo: Supplied.

The bus driver says that he was able to pull over into the car park at the Bethlehem shops on SH2 as there was no one parked there.

“I gave the money to two senior boys to go get the water. And let kids get off for several minutes.”

With 51 students on board, on a bus with no air conditioning that seats up to 56, he had noticed some of the younger ones were becoming very uncomfortable in the heat.

“Every time we were stopped in traffic I opened the door to let air in and then we would drive five metres, then open it again.”

SH2 traffic nearly "bumper to bumper". Photo: SunLive.

A Pahoia parent who says the “roadworks caused absolute mayhem” is questioning why the road works are not being done at night.

“It took three hours for our kiddos school buses to get home last [Friday] night. Kids going from Ōtūmoetai to Ōmokoroa/ Pahoia were on the buses until up to 6pm. Many having to stand for three hours.

“One bus driver even had to stop for water for the kids on the bus because they feared they would get heat exposure! Wow. Just wow. Why, oh why don’t they do night works? And why start doing the works when school and work go back after a six week quiet period on our roads?

“I had to wait at the bus stop for two hours 15 minutes because we had no idea what the expected time of arrival would be. Rural kids have to be collected because we live so far away from the bus stops. Add to the fact students are not allowed cell phones at school. We couldn’t communicate to find out how far away they were.

“There was a grandfather waiting at the bus stop with mobility issues.”

Traffic can quickly build up along SH2. Photo: SunLive.

One SunLive reader has had enough.

“Please do a story about kids trapped on buses for two hours each way to/from school with no air con,” they write.

“It's insane they are delaying building a school in Ōmokoroa too.

“It took us 1.5 hours to just get through Bethlehem and on [the] other side of [the] Wairoa bridge a school bus has broken down.

“We saw multiple other cars overheating too. In this heat it's horrendous!”

Lotto legend

Amongst all this, one driver at some point stopped off at the Te Puna Four Square, whether it was on this frightful Friday or another day, we don’t know.

But the result of pausing his SH2 corridor journey was purchasing a Lotto ticket, that early on Sunday morning transported him into a realm of sheer delight on discovering he had won $700,000.

Te Puna Four Square is located along SH2 at Te Puna near the Minden Rd/SH2 roundabout. Image: Google Maps.

“When all four numbers lined up, I couldn’t believe it, so I scanned my ticket on MyLotto and got my family to double-check it. It was pretty surreal,’ says the winner who wishes to remain anonymous.

Tree felling legends

On Saturday, the traffic had noticeably eased, despite some large tree felling along SH2 between Loop Rd and Ainsworth Rd near Te Puna.

“They were stopping the traffic intermittently as a big tree goes down. But smoothish traffic,” says a local.

Tree felling along SH2. Photo: Sarah Oemcke.

Along SH2, near the Ōmokoroa intersection, a significant amount of tree clearing has been completed.

"If you have travelled through the State Highway 2 and Ōmokoroa intersection over the past month you would have seen things are starting to look a little different," says a Western Bay of Plenty District Council spokesperson.

"As part of the Ōmokoroa intersection upgrades our teams were on the ground at the end of last year clearing vegetation and trees."

Tree felling at the Ōmokoroa/SH2 intersection. Photo: WBOPDC.

"Construction on a busy intersection that intersects a state highway is complex, and a good way to think about it is like a jigsaw puzzle," says a council spokesperson.

"We start from the outside and work towards the middle, or in this case the Ōmokoroa intersection upgrade.  So before we can go any further and get our shovels in the ground there is a lot of work to still be done in the background."

Roundabout legend

Tauranga is arguably becoming "legendary" for its roundabouts.

Mount Maunganui has a smiley face roundabout, as well as three sets of traffic lights at the Bayfair roundabout, and not to be outdone, Te Puna has  come through with its own roundabout “attraction”.

A welcome surprise appeared on Monday morning, as motorists who have struggled to see through the Te Puna roundabout due to the height of the grass growing there, were greeted with the sight of hay bales.

Phillip Morrissey noticed as he drove through the Minden roundabout that someone had turned the long grass into hay bales. Photo: Phillip Morrissey.

“The grass has grown so long on the TePuna / SH2 roundabout that a local farmer has cut it and now baled it for hay,” says a local.

“I live on Minden Rd, Te Puna, and a lot of the Te Puna locals have been annoyed that ever since they put the roundabout in on State Highway 2 and Te Puna Rd they only mow the roundabout and surrounding berms like once every four months.”

He says the roundabout looks like a hay paddock for six months of the year. 

“A local contractor cut the roundabout about a week ago. I went past this morning and he must of baled it last night. Obviously he’s done it to prove a point. 

“The locals want it mowed more regularly or they should plant it out.”

Uncluttering the SH2 Waihī to Tauranga corridor

Following the SH2 corridor Friday traffic chaos, the surprise appearance of a hole under SH29A followed by the road closure there, and a lane closure on Totara Street,  NZTA decided to pause SH2 Waihī to Tauranga corridor road works on Sunday and Monday February 11 and 12.

Road users were encouraged to avoid travelling on Monday, work from home or use alternative transport if they can, while road contractors worked around the clock to reopen SH29A and Totara St.

On Tuesday morning Totara St and SH29A reopened, although more work is still to be completed on those routes. And there are 20 chipseal sites still to be completed along the SH2 Waihī to Tauranga corridor.

In the meantime, if you are travelling up and down State Highway 2 between Waihi and Ōmokoroa you may see the Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency road working teams making the most of the sunny and settled weather and getting more work done, such as line marking and resealing.

Make sure you give them a wave as you drive through the sites - it can be tough work on a hot day. And make sure to have a bottle of water on board. And maybe a sleeping bag. 

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Bethlehem roundabout

Posted on 15-02-2024 11:19 | By RJW

It would be great to see the vegetation cut down on the roundabout by Palmers garden center and concrete it.

Orange Cones

Posted on 15-02-2024 11:22 | By waiknot

I hope the farmer had a couple of thousand orange cones out while hay bailing off the road

Start on the green spaces next please

Posted on 15-02-2024 12:59 | By an_alias

TCC maintenance has gone out the window, I guess they need the funds aye to pay the fab 4.
Each time they cut the green space grass turns to hay as well, they leave it so late.
Orange cones.....man someone must be getting paid by the cone.......they slow speed at which all work is done is mind blowing

The Master

Posted on 15-02-2024 14:38 | By Ian Stevenson

Previously, wasn't there a heaps of $$ assigned to upgrade the road? Then the Government "stole" all that $$ and wasted it on light rail and other nonsense?

NZTA - Government then must have been obsessed with something else, in end result money all gone, nothing to show for it here or there...

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