Normality is returning for users of the Manawatu Gorge, and the communities on either side of the troubled road.
State Highway 3 through the gorge has been open in both directions since Wednesday afternoon. The road has not been open both ways for three consecutive days since last August because of a series of slips.
Palmerston North Mayor Jono Naylor said he thought motorists were "pretty excited" at the increased access to the gorge and were looking forward to more normality along the route.
For the past 13 months SH3 through the gorge has been shut to traffic save for about eight weeks where motorists could use the route in one direction during the day and both at night.
“This section of highway has seen so much drama in the last year," NZ Transport Agency Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said. "It's been host to the largest pile of dirt that's ever landed on a New Zealand road, then it became a hive of reconstruction, and now, it's back to being a two-lane highway.
“It's really rewarding to see life returning to normal for the people who rely on this route, and to see motorists getting through without the lengthy detours they've endured over the last 13 months.”
Mr McGonigal said traffic had flowed smoothly since Wednesday, including through the two short sections that were one-lane only.
Mr Naylor said the gorge closure had been "a long year" for people in the region, particularly for those who used the route regularly and for Woodville and Ashhurst residents.
Increased access to the gorge was "great news for the people of Woodville who are getting the business back they wanted and for the people of Ashhurst who will have peace and quiet".
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA remains keenly aware of the gorge closure's impact on the Manawatu region. “The closure of the gorge has affected lives and livelihoods in Manawatu and beyond, and we've been battling for more than a year to get to this point."
He says the two-lane operation will reduce the strain on Ashhurst residents, who have stoically put up with the noise of trucks and other vehicles since the closure first happened. He thanked the region's community for their understanding during the past 13 months.
“The community has been incredibly patient and supportive during what has been a difficult time for them. We've never had a closure like this before in our lifetime and we've been very conscious of how hard it's been on everybody.”
- Manawatu Standard
If you had a choice, which would you prefer on Christmas day?Related story: Sun takes a Christmas holiday