No quick, cheap fix for Grove Rd bridge

CATHIE BELL
Last updated 08:52 11/06/2014
Lynette Rayner
SCOTT HAMMOND/FAIRFAX NZ
NOT IDEAL: The Grove Rd bridge has been a matter of debate in Marlborough for decades.

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Having a bridge on State Highway 1 at the entrance to Blenheim where two trucks could not pass each other was "not ideal" but there was no cheap fix, roading authorities say.

Marlborough Roads highway manager Frank Porter said yesterday that a replacement of the Grove Rd bridge or a second bridge over the Opawa River had been considered, but was not in the agency's programme.

Marlborough Roads was proposing a "route study" through Blenheim that would look at the bridge in the 2015-18 draft Regional Land Transport Programme, he said. The Marlborough District Council's regional transport committee would have an opportunity for input into that.

The council, at a hearing on Monday, decided it was time to "push harder" for a fix to the "scary" bridge, saying it was time to take a strong stance after years of debate.

The town "definitely" wanted the traffic, but not a bridge where people felt nervous or unable to drive across if a truck was already on it, they said.

Porter said the main problem was its narrowness and the need for trucks to travel across in one direction at a time. "We recognise this is not an ideal situation, but there is no cheap fix and it is prudent that we weigh it up against other pressing safety priorities. There have been no serious crashes recorded in the past 10 years and the reality is that we need to prioritise funds for the sites where people are dying or getting seriously injured."

New Zealand Transport Agency data showed there had been six minor injuries from five crashes, and 24 non-injury crashes in the past 10 years, with no serious or fatal crashes. In the past seven years, there had been no recorded instances of delays longer than 20 minutes.

The 170-metre-long Grove Rd bridge, with its eight equal arch trusses, was registered with the Historic Places Trust in 1990 and carries a category 1 classification. Construction of the bridge began in 1915 but because of World War I, was not completed until the end of 1917.

The bridge, despite being nearly 100 years old, did not need a weight restriction, and after refurbishment about 10 years ago, was in "remarkably good" condition, Porter said. He defended the New Zealand Transport Agency, saying the agency did not "regularly decline" projects in Marlborough. In the past year, Marlborough had more roading projects underway, completed, or planned than in any other time in recent memory. "We're committed to improving road safety in Marlborough and we're putting our money - and our shovels - where our mouth is by progressing a whole suite of safety upgrades."

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These included the more than $6 million worth of improvements at the Dashwood overpass, and major intersection improvements planned for Spring Creek with design work about to begin.

The makeover of Butter Factory Corner to improve safety for motorists, particularly heavy vehicles, was completed this year.

In recent years further investments to create a safer and more resilient network were done, Porter said.

"For example, Awatere bridge, elevation realignment, Utawai realignment, Sneiders bridge, successive Rapaura Road upgrades, along with the current SH1 safety upgrade and Dashwood realignment have involved some $30m of expenditure.

"In short, more money is being invested in the Marlborough roading network than ever before, and it is safer than ever before,"Porter said.

- The Marlborough Express

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