The mammoth job to clear and reopen State Highway 3 through the Manawatu Gorge is complete.
Contractors wrapped up work at site, about 1km into the gorge from the Ashhurst end, yesterday afternoon.
NZ Transport Agency Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said a "tired but relieved crew" completed the last touches this week by laying the road surface, painting fresh road markings, and packing up the work site.
Contractors from several companies, led by Higgins, have been working on the site since August 18, 2011, when the first in a series of slips fell on the road.
"The crew have stuck at the task for a long time, and they can now reflect on a job well done. They've rebuilt an entirely new piece of highway in a superbly orchestrated blur of activity, and words can't express the value of their hard work for the Manawatu region and beyond.
"Every cliche about true grit and Kiwi ‘number 8 wire' ingenuity comes to mind, but at the end of the day, they had a job to do - a huge job - and they did it."
Mr McGonigal said repairs to a half-bridge, 500m east of the main slip site, had been completed, and enough rockfall netting to cover a rugby field has been installed on the face of the main slip.
Mr McGonigal said NZTA was grateful to the people of Manawatu and beyond for their patience, perseverance and understanding over the past 15 months.
While the job in the Manawatu Gorge was now finished, NZTA would continue its focus on improving the Saddle Road.
"We recognise the importance of ensuring the people of Manawatu have peace of mind in the form of a solid alternative route. We'll be working closely with Tararua District Council and Palmerston North City Council on the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Saddle Road.
"The Manawatu Gorge is, and always will be, a vital lifeline. While the last closure was an anomaly in terms of its scale and duration, the reality is that closures will happen from time to time, and we need to be ready.
"We're now better prepared than ever before, and we're dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of the Manawatu community through the gorge, and with the provision of a sturdy backup route when required."
- © Fairfax NZ News
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