Dangerous Mangawhero Bridge unlikely to change

CRASH: Two trucks collided on State Highway 27 near Matamata.
CRASH: Two trucks collided on State Highway 27 near Matamata.

A notoriously narrow bridge where two trucks slammed into each other head-on this week will not be widened despite the pleas of truckies.

The New Zealand Transport Agency said the Mangawhero Stream Bridge on State Highway 27 near Matamata is adequate for the amount of traffic it handles.

At 6.10am on Tuesday a southbound truck apparently swerved to avoid colliding with the rear of a B-train that was braking in front for the bridge.

The 46-year-old Palmerston North man was yesterday stable in a Waikato Hospital ward with lower back injuries.

As a truck swerved to the right it veered into the path of an oncoming B-train, that was near stationary, and they collided head-on. The truck driver avoided injury, but the B-train driver was trapped and seriously injured.

One of the first people at the scene was Tauranga truck driver Daryl Adams.

Drivers who regularly crossed the bridge knew it was a dangerous spot, he said. "Basically you have to start slowing down way back up here [on the approaching hill] to around 60kmh.

"The driver furthest away will give way to the truck closest. You can't cross at the same time - there'd be plenty of wing mirrors down there."

Indeed, the remains of two wing mirrors were spotted during a cursory glance over the side of the bridge.

Truckies communicate via their CB radio's to avoid crossing at the same time. "The bridge needs to be widened or for us heavy permit vehicles an alternative way to go. It would just eliminate what's happened today. Obviously there's been a breakdown in communication somewhere," Mr Adams said.

Fellow truckie Sam Carter, of Mt Maunganui, agreed. "It's just a bunch of near misses on the bridge."

However, NZTA Waikato/Bay of Plenty state highway manager Kaye Clark said the agency believed the Mangawhero Bridge was of a reasonable width. "Like many bridges of this size and age across our region, the Mangawhero Stream Bridge on SH27 is capable of carrying the existing volume of traffic in this area. Traffic flows on this stretch of highway are unlikely to change significantly in the foreseeable future."

Mrs Clark said projects were prioritised based on, among other things, a high crash rate, but there were no plans to upgrade the bridge in the foreseeable future.

Data from 2003 to 2013 shows that prior to Tuesday's crash there have been no fatal or serious crashes in the vicinity of the bridge. Of the eight crashes in that period, six resulted in no injuries while two caused minor injuries.

Waikato Times