Speedsters in Manawatu Gorge a safety risk

MATHEW GROCOTT
Last updated 11:18 16/06/2012

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Renegade drivers are putting workers in the Manawatu Gorge at risk by speeding through the slip site on State Highway 3.

The temporary section of road past the slip is open to only one lane as contractors replace a bridge destroyed last year.

New Zealand Transport Agency Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said while overall motorists were well behaved, the occasional driver was travelling too fast, causing safety concerns.

"We get the occasional vehicle travelling through the temporary road at speed, and that's simply not on. This is a construction area and we have workers onsite 24/7, and people must stick to the 30kmh speed limit to protect the very workers who are trying to get the gorge fully reopened.

"People also need to keep in mind that it's a temporary road, not a sealed highway, and as such it's not built to handle high speeds, and it will deteriorate if people travel too fast."

Mr McGonigal said the site had been a hive of construction activity, with the installation of safety netting and the rebuild of the bridges continuing to accelerate.

The bridge work has largely focused on installing the piles, and seven piling holes have now been drilled at the Ashhurst end. The first abutment cage has also arrived and its installation will be completed next week.

Mr McGonigal said that overall the reopening of the gorge to traffic two weeks ago had worked well. The road had been closed since August due to a series of slips.

The road is open 24 hours to traffic from Woodville, however motorists coming from Ashhurst still need to use the alternative routes between 8am and 6pm.

"It was always going to be a challenge to have thousands of motorists sharing a very constrained area with a large construction site, and we're thrilled to see it fall into place so seamlessly.

"The extended two-way operation between 6pm and 8am has gone smoothly, and while the extended times were just a couple of hours it means hundreds more vehicles can use the gorge than previously, especially commuters. That's a lot of money saved, a lot of time and petrol saved, and we're pleased that it's made the lives of people easier."

Mr McGonigal said the gorge could be closed at any time depending on weather or the condition of the road and motorists were advised to check electronic signs at either end of the route.

Information is also available at nzta.govt.nz/manawatu-gorge.

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- Manawatu Standard

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