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Some Palmerston North roads are crumbling under the weight of trucks

Palmerston North's Summerhill Drive is cracking under the weight of heavy traffic not expected to use it as a priority route. (File photo)

Warwick Smith/Stuff

Palmerston North’s Summerhill Drive is cracking under the weight of heavy traffic not expected to use it as a priority route. (File photo)

Palmerston North could come up with a plan to divert heavy traffic off central and residential streets on to roads built to handle big rigs.

The city council’s finance and audit committee has asked for a report on what it can do to force heavy vehicles on to priority urban transport routes.

Councillor Brent Barrett said too many city roads that were not designed for trucks were being “beaten up”.

“The network is kind of crumbling.”

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Barrett said in the long term, it would be possible to design the network in ways that discouraged trucks from using certain streets.

But in the meantime, some sort of designated heavy traffic route or a bylaw could help relieve the problem.

Council chief planning officer David Murphy said the report councillors were asking for would require extra resources that were not in the work plan.

He said it highlighted the tension between long-term planning and short-term challenges.

Deputy mayor Aleisha Rutherford said the council was facing increasing bills for repairing roads that were being “shredded”, and supported the search for solutions.

Mayor Grant Smith said an example was Summerhill Drive, which became the main highway and a main entrance to the city whenever the Saddle Rd was closed and the Pahīatua Track became the heavy traffic route.

“It needs urgent work. It is not designed for that amount of heavy traffic.”

The committee recommended transferring $500,000 from its sealed pavement renewal budget to pay for urgent heavy maintenance on roads including Summerhill Dr.

The problem of dealing with damage caused by heavy traffic arose when councillors were discussing tweaks to its roading programmes to make up for cuts to subsidies coming from Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency.

Council acting transport and infrastructure manager Sandra King said Palmerston North had fared better than many territorial authorities, in that it would receive the bulk of what it was expecting.

It received approval for $27.7 million for new capital programmes under $2m each, which was 85 per cent of the $31.4m sought.

But there were some losses, such as $1.32m over the next three years to complete infill LED street lighting programmes.

Cr Lorna Johnson said the project related back to the switch to LED street lights that highlighted deficiencies in the placement of light poles, leaving dark, unsafe gaps in some streets.

She said it would be unreasonable to slow down the work to match the funds available, and leave some streets in the dark even longer.

The committee recommended the council raise extra debt to enable the programme to continue.

It was not breaking news, but the committee also noted the agency would not be helping in the current three-year cycle to pay for a new urban bus terminal, or a package of work developing the city’s integrated transport initiative project.

Barrett said he was frustrated and disappointed the agency did not see the bus terminal improvements as a priority.

Other projects cut back included $1.7m for traffic lights at Tennent Dr at the entrance to Massey University.

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