The partial reopening of the Manawatu Gorge this week has meant two-thirds of the vehicles that had used Saddle Rd and Pahiatua Track no longer had to.
NZ Transport Agency reopened the gorge to some traffic on Wednesday afternoon, signalling the long closure of the section of State Highway 3 was nearing an end.
The reopening had gone smoothly so far, NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said.
“It's a huge relief to thousands of people a day, and the feedback we've received is that people don't realise just how convenient the gorge is until they've been deprived of it for some time.”
The gorge had been closed for all but six weeks since the first in a series of slips on August 18 last year. Before the gorge closed it was estimated about 7000 vehicles used the route each day.
While the road was closed traffic had to use two alternative routes, local roads not suitable for such traffic volumes.
The gorge is now open to traffic travelling from Woodville to Ashhurst 24 hours a day and to vehicles in the other direction from 6pm to 8am.
“Getting the gorge open to one lane has taken a lot of pressure off the alternative routes," Mr McGonigal said. "This will help improve safety because there will be less traffic on the roads, and less wear and tear. It also means our crews and get in and do some more repair work without causing holdups and disruption.”
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said the agency aimed to have the road fully reopened by the end of this month.
“When we consider that when the dirt was cleared, the road was completely destroyed, it's truly rewarding to see the road largely rebuilt and back in action.
“Getting two lanes of traffic through will be the next milestone, and the grand finale will be having the bridges completed and life going back to normal."
Mr McGonigal said the two-way operation might be extended in the weekend when traffic is light, and signs in Woodville and Ashhurst would have information.
- © Fairfax NZ News
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