Vehicles speed through Ashhurst streets as the gorge remains shut
Ashhurst residents are fed up with speeding vehicles trying to make up for lost time as the Manawatu Gorge road remains closed.
State Highway 3 through the gorge was closed after a large slip covered both lanes on April 24.
This week, the New Zealand Transport Agency announced it would not be opening on Thursday as expected due to another slip crashing down.
Alternative route Saddle Rd takes about twice as long and has vehicles racing down residential streets in Ashhurst, rather than bypassing the town on State Highway 3.
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Salisbury St resident Rex Brosnan has been forced to grin and bear it as trucks and cars hoon along his street, which runs off Saddle Rd.
Cars speed through the town, taking no notice of residents or Ashhurst School pupils, Brosnan said. "There's little kids around. They just don't care."
Brosnan has suffered through three sleepless weeks, as he is constantly woken by trucks. "You certainly wake up early in the morning. It's bloody mayhem."
Riverside Orchard and Garden owner Paul Wycherley said people seemed to be in more of a hurry to get home rather than taking time to shop. "They don't want to be held up anymore."
There was about 20 per cent less business at their SH3 site when the gorge was closed, Wycherley said. "We absolutely lose Pahiatua people."
Ashhurst residents were not the only ones annoyed, as truck driver Paul Dixon said he would rather be using the gorge than taking the steep Saddle Rd. "It does frustrate me, but I'm a realist. I know they can't wave a magic wand and fix it."
Dixon tried to lessen the disruption to residents by driving through as quietly as he could. "We like to avoid residential areas. We try."
Central District road policing manager inspector Brett Calkin said there had been about double the amount of police highway patrols in Ashhurst and Saddle Rd since the gorge closure.
The volume of traffic through Saddle Rd went "through the roof" when the gorge was closed, Calkin said.
Since the closure there have been four minor crashes on Saddle Rd. With more traffic rolling through, that rate was expected, Calkin said.
However, despite more traffic, there had not been more speeding fines handed out. This could be due to the heavy traffic slowing people down, Calkin said.
Ashhurst school principal Heath Chittenden said the school backed on to Salisbury St, so the increase in traffic did not affect the main entrance.
There had been no trouble as the police were being vigilant, he said.
Transport agency highway manager Ross I'Anson said barriers were installed on Salisbury St on Wednesday in response to a request from residents concerned with traffic travelling too quickly."We've added these 'threshold treatments' to slow traffic and improve safety."
Contractors working on clearing the gorge road were waiting for more unstable material to come down during the wet weather forecast for Thursday, he said. "Work to clear the new slip will begin as soon as conditions are safe."
I'Anson could not confirm when the road would reopen.