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Stokes Valley residents are tired of idling as council confirms traffic problems will continue

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Students miss school, commuters miss the train, and retirees spend three times as much gas to sit still as they try to get out of a Lower Hutt suburb.

A slip has left mounds on the southern lanes of Eastern Hutt Road. file photo
Photo: RNZ / Soumya Bhamidipati

They are some of the 10,000 people who live in Stokes Valley, where there is only one way in or out.

The area has been hit by more than 30 landslides in the past two weeks, 20 of which were serious.

Two houses were stickered red.

The double lane southbound of Eastern Hutt Road was deemed unsafe last week after two skids.

The council received geotechnical reporting from some of the banks last Friday – but the top of the land is privately owned and the homeowners have to have their land assessed by EQC, so the Hutt City Council will have to wait for those assessments to come in about three weeks.

Now the congested route is limited to a single lane and traffic is causing a splitting headache for residents, some trying to access public transport.

Leonie Dobbs has lived in the Valley for 65 years, and what would usually take her five minutes to the train station this week took her 1 hour and 20 minutes.

“I went through 33 liters of gasoline. The amount of carbon dioxide, the amount of cars [that are stuck in traffic] is huge because all we do is idle.”

At a community center last night, residents said the problem was a safety hazard as emergency services struggled to get through the congestion.

Another resident, Sarah, said the traffic she faced taking her children to Lower Hutt infuriated her.

“My kid told me he had to go to the bathroom while we were stuck, and I thought, what, am I just going to stand on the side of the road?”

“[Hutt City Council] can sit there and say they understand, but they don’t, they haven’t been in traffic for an hour every day.”

Hutt City Council held a community meeting last night to discuss the traffic problems facing Stokes Valley residents.
Photo: RNZ / Kirsty Frame

Hutt City Council warned locals that they would be affected by disruption for a few months but that temporary traffic management would be in place.

Temporary traffic lights will be installed on Monday for traffic coming south from Upper Hutt to try and give Stokes Valley drivers more chance to get on the road.

A second traffic light will be located on Stokes Valley Road.

They operate during peak hours, Monday through Friday.

Some residents were not convinced it would make a difference, because there were still too many buildings on the south side of the intersection.

The council’s head of transport, Jon Kingsbury, said it would continue to monitor solutions and said the feedback was helpful.

“If we need to change the timing and have more red light for certain parts than more green, then we’ll do that, but we’ll be constantly monitoring through data and physical observations,” Kingsbury said.

Hutt City Council's proposed changes to the Stokes Valley roundabout layout.

Hutt City Council’s proposed changes to the Stokes Valley roundabout layout.
Photo: RNZ / Kirsty Frame

Hutt City Council director Jo Miller encouraged those who could to work from home or carpool to keep as many cars off the road as possible.

Miller told Morning reportlast night the municipality spoke with residents in a community center about possible solutions to tackle congestion.

The council was still awaiting geotechnical reports on the properties at risk from the slip and it would take some time to get the road back to normal, she said.

“We can make it a little easier, but it will be a lot of work until we make sure the land is stabilized and we can reopen the dual carriageway out of Stokes Valley.

“We can do things like temporary speed limits, send messages, traffic lights on the roundabouts to control the flow of the morning … we could do a lot to make it easier, but it won’t go back to normal,” Miller said. .

The geotechnical reports on the homes affected by the slip, which were carried out through the homeowners’ insurance companies and EQC, would go on for at least three more weeks, Miller said.

The municipality considered opening up some of its own buildings to create temporary workspaces in an effort to reduce the number of cars on the traffic-calmed road.

The Koraunui Stokes Valley Community Hub will also open its doors to provide space for people to work remotely in the meantime.

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