Stay alert motorists urged as SH3 opens

Last updated 12:00 02/06/2012

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Ashhurst residents have enjoyed their second night without the rumble of trucks past their homes as the roading authority reports the reopening of the Manawatu Gorge has gone smoothly.

NZ Transport Agency Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said the NZTA has been thrilled with the smooth operation of the temporary road, and has commended motorists for taking it easy and being patient and cautious during the early stages of the reopening.

"We want to thank motorists for taking it easy in these early stages while we all get used to having traffic flowing through the gorge. People have been patient, cautious and friendly, and that's just great to see and it helps everything go smoothly for everyone.

"We will continue to keep a really close eye on the weather and the condition of the road. While we're delighted motorists are enjoying their return to the Gorge, it's important people remember the small print – the status of the road is subject to change at short notice, keep some time up your sleeve in the event of delays, and if in doubt, follow the signs."

The road was reopened to one lane just before 4pm on Thursday, and just after a rainbow was visible above the slip site. State Highway 3 through the Gorge has been closed for all but three days since the first in a series of slips in August.

The largest slip, on October 18, had to be cleared from the top of a 150m high hillside down to road level. That slip destroyed a 60m-long bridge which needs to be replaced before the road can reopen fully. That work may take four months.

Until then the gorge is open to 24-hour traffic from Woodville to Ashhurst, and from 7pm to 7am for motorists travelling from Ashhurst to Woodville. The one-lane road past the slip is managed by traffic signals overnight.

Mr McGonigal thanked Higgins for their work getting the temporary road prepared and managing traffic through the site.

"Our contractors have been committed to getting this gorge open right since the get-go, and they should be very proud to see traffic trundling past them just in time for the long weekend.

Mr McGonigal stressed that the alternative routes, the Saddle Rd and Pahiatua Track, remained two-way roads, and that while traffic volumes from Woodville-Ashhurst will have dropped significantly, people must not get complacent about the risk of oncoming traffic. "The gorge will have taken a lot of the traffic off the alternative routes, but there's still going to be traffic coming the other way so we're urging motorists to stay alert, stay careful, follow the road rules and stick to the posted speed limits." The partial reopening will be strictly subject to weather and onsite conditions.

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People are advised to check the NZTA's Manawatu Gorge web page, or email manawatugorge@nzta.govt.nz for more information.

- Manawatu Standard

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