Down Mexico Way?
By Roger Childs
No, we are not talking America’s southern border, but the Kapiti sound walls.
The new expressway through the area has shortened travel time, brought environmental and recreational benefits and reduced traffic congestion.
But problems remain. Number one is the noise factor.
Considerable benefits …..
This “Road of National Significance” was opened ahead of time and has been touted as a model for others still to be built. The use of computer technology to ensure exact specifications for building materials and use of sound-deadening road surfacing have been hailed as major breakthroughs.
Throughout the construction phase, the New Zealand Transport Agency’s public relations with the community were impressive and all pathways across the route of the highway were kept open.
Compared with earlier days, six times as many wetlands are now attractively laid out and there has been a dramatic increase in bird life in these areas. Over 1.4 million flaxes, shrubs and trees have been planted and in some areas these are over 2 metres high.
The cycleway/walkway along the entire length is a superb community asset and is now a regular feature of the leisure routines of thousands of locals.
Local roads, with a few exceptions, are less congested and the old State Highway One to Waikanae is now a pleasure to drive on.
….. but noise is a big problem
Like hundreds, maybe thousands, of Kapitians, we hear the noise through the night. Sound wall have been built in various places, like north of the Raumati Bridge and around the Kapiti Road and Mazengarb Road bridges, but they quickly run out.
Unlike their construction techniques, NZTA uses outdated decibel technology to determine the levels of noise that are: “acceptable”.
Expressway noise that might be bearable during the day when people are at work, school, watching television, listening to the radio or out about town, is not acceptable when they go to bed and want to sleep.
Heavy vehicles roll along the new route all through the hours of darkness and some use engine brakes.
Another noise problem is the KABOOM of vehicles passing over the small metal sections of bridges. Surely in these days of sophisticated technology and state of the art building techniques NZTA can sort that one out.
Extend the sound walls
This needs to happen. NZTA should have a decibel measurement for the time when there is no household noise and people are trying to sleep.
There are many places where the existing sound walls need to be extended.
A case in point, is north of the Raumati Road bridge where the residents of Kiwi Road, Rata Road and streets off these two, are suffering in a big way. Other areas along the 16km have similar concerns.
Cost is obviously a big factor, however a major reduction in spending on NZTA publicity and glossy brochures would help defray the cost of improving the lifestyles of Kapiti people who live near the expressway.