Construction of the long-awaited second bridge over Waikanae River is under way as the McKays to Peka Peka expressway project ramps up.
The New Zealand Transport Agency has started test pile drilling on the southern side of the river. Work has already started on the northern side and around Poplar Ave in Raumati South Earthworks are also about to start at Peka Peka.
Construction of the $630 million expressway was given the go-ahead last month after two Supreme Court appeals against consent for the development were dismissed.
Expressway construction manager John Palm said the $35 million Waikanae River bridge was being built first, because it was critical for moving materials north and south along the alignment rather than hauling it along public roads.
A haul road has been developed between NZTA's site office in Otaihanga Rd and the construction site.
Work on permanent piling is due to start in April, when about 54 beams, weighing 85 tonnes each and spanning 40 metres, the largest of their kind used in New Zealand, will be transported to the site.
The piles, which are nearly three metres in diameter, will be sunk down 18 metres. On the north side of the river a gas main and fibre optic cable will be relocated.
Project manager Alan Orange said because most of the soil was sand, work could continue through winter.
''If it rains we get compaction and that keeps the dust down. A lot of jobs stop in winter,'' Mr Orange said.
One carriageway was expected to be completed this year and the entire bridge by August next year.
Work also is under way to fell about 18 hectares of pine forest south of Otaihanga Rd, and clear trees around southern entrance at Poplar Ave.
Over the next three to four weeks peat will start to be excavated at Peka Peka for a new embankment, and a haul road will be developed between Te Moana Rd in Waikanae and Peka Peka for big earthmoving transporters.
Otaki MP Nathan Guy welcomed said the start of construction of the bridge.
''Paraparaumu and Waikanae residents have been waiting decades for another bridge.
There will be 1000 jobs created from the project when it gets going in the middle of this year.
''This is going to open up the Kapiti and Horowhenua districts to the future - there will be population growth ...less delays and huge safety benefits,'' he said.
He slammed Labour's opposition to the road as ''living in la la land''.
Commenting on complaints about delays at the Otaihanga roundabout, presently under construction, he said some delays could be expected.
''As a result of the probably the biggest government investment in this district, there will be some small disruptions...most people realise the benefits,'' he said.
NZTA Wellington highways manager Rod James said they had advised motorists about the possibility of delays from the temporary configuration of the roundabout.
''It appears to be a combination of drivers adjusting to the new configuration and temporary speed limit, and the usual heavy traffic volumes the expressway aims to alleviate,'' Mr James said.
The expressway project was expected to be finished in 2017. The next section of the expressway, from Peka Peka to Otaki, is planned to start in 2016 and take four years.
- The Dominion Post
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