Busy Rd Breaches Air Quality


Air quality at a busy northern Hamilton intersection has been found to  breach national standards for air quality.

The Regional Council is blaming big trucks at nearby road works.

Since March this year, the regional council has been measuring the amount of nitrogen dioxide (NO2) in the air at the intersection of Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive.

The national environmental standard is breached when in one hour average NO2 levels exceed 200 micrograms per cubic metre (μg/m3) of air 10 or more times in a 12 month period.

Between March an1 d  May 23 NO2 levels exceeded 200 μg/m3 more than 50 times. At its highest, levels reached 556 μg/m3 between 7am and 8am on March 30.

There have been no further breaches since May 20 but this is the first we have heard about it.

Council air quality scientist Dr Nick Kim said analysis of the results has found a possible link with road works in the vicinity over summer and autumn.

“Until late May, there were more heavy trucks than usual travelling through the Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive intersection, and these would have added to the already high base-load.

“The last exceedances coincide with the winding down of roading works for the winter, and there have been no further breaches in more than five weeks of ongoing monitoring,” Dr Kim said.

“The majority of exceedances occurred on weekdays during the morning peak and when there was little wind to disperse emissions.

“Almost all nitrogen dioxide near busy intersections like this one comes from motor vehicles, and especially from diesel vehicles. The greatest amounts of NO2 are produced when engines are under load, such as pulling away from traffic lights, so NO2 levels tend to be higher on busy roads that have a lot of heavy vehicles.

“A large heavy vehicle such as a truck can emit around 10 times more NO2 than a petrol car. Even a small diesel car can emit four times more NO2 than a petrol-run car.”

Dr Kim said people are exposed to NO2 by breathing in air. Previous research by the former Auckland Regional Council showed that NO2 contributions from a motorway can remain elevated up to at least 300 metres away from the roadside.

It can irritate eyes, nose, throat, and lungs, possibly causing coughing, shortness of breath, tiredness, and nausea.

The national environmental standard requires regional councils to monitor the air in cases where national standards are likely to be breached, and undertake this monitoring in the part of an airshed where exceedances are greatest or most frequent.

Waikato Regional Council believes that in the Hamilton airshed, exceedances of the national environmental standard for NO2 are the greatest and most frequent at the Te Rapa Road and Avalon Drive intersection. Monitoring will continue until the exceedances no longer occur.

Hamilton's air polluted roads

Policy and transport group manager Vaughan Payne said the Te Rapa and Ngaruawahia sections of the Waikato Expressway, due for completion in 2013/14, are expected to ease congestion in northern Hamilton.

“The council’s Regional Land Transport Strategy supports construction of nationally and regionally significant traffic corridors, such as these two sections of the Expressway, which will channel long distance vehicles off local roads and onto major arterial roads.

“Although this will continue to be a busy intersection, the completion of the Expressway sections are likely to result in a reduction in NO2 emissions,” Mr Payne said.

The council will continue to notify the public of any further breaches of NO2 at this site on a monthly basis.

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  1. KarlHansen says:

    I’d expect tons of areas in our country to have similar issues. In Germany, they actually are banning older (or more specifically, emissions-heavier) cars from over several dozens of city centres now. Would be curious what effect it had on traffic volumes…

  2. Carl says:

    motorways or expressways don’t ease anything, they just create an excuse for more people to drive.

    when is anyone actually going to figure that out?

  3. Miggle says:

    Wonder how many other intersections would have similar issues if they actually bothered to measure.

  4. Luke Elliott says:

    As a someone living in Hamilton (for university mind you, I’m certainly not a proud Hamiltonian!), I’d like to put in some local insight here.

    This intersection is one of the busiest in the city. It’s part of State Highway 1, at the very top of the city, and is the main road in and out of the city, when coming from/going to the north. It’s situated on the city’s ring route, right next to another major intersection, leading to the eastern suburbs of the city. This intersection (Wairere Dr/Pukete Rd), is currently being converted from a roundabout to signals, as Wairere Drive gets 4-laned. So, lots of construction going on there.

    An equally close distance, on the opposite side of the intersection, Avalon Drive is being 4-laned, and the ‘Te Rapa’ section of the Waikato expressway is being constructed, with an interchange connecting to this part of Avalon Drive.

    Te Rapa, just south of the intersection, is one of the city’s industrial areas, and just to the north is The Base, which is the country’s largest shopping mall (by area), and the busiest in Hamilton.

    In short, I wouldn’t be surprised if this was the busiest intersection in the region. There’s certainly plenty of reasons why the air there is so bad. I feel bad for the workers at the Burger King on the corner, who stand outside shaking their advertising boards, breathing all this in.

    Like the council says though, things probably will improve a bit when all the construction in the area stops, and when the expressway opens, meaning this is no longer State Highway 1. It will still be a hugely busy intersection though.

  5. KarlHansen says:

    Luke, fair point, but in the end, that will mostly spread the pollution thinner over a larger area! Some reduction, sure - but as Carl said, it’s the same old “if we only build more roads, we will beat congestion!” argument, that only ever works in countries with declining populations…

  6. damian says:

    The Construction works in Hamilton is part of a wider HCC transport plan. This plan includes dedicated cycleways, buslanes and clearways.

    So in order to get ones omettle a few eggs need to be broken


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