LATEST: The Manawatu Gorge will partially reopen next week after more than a year of being closed.
A series of slips, starting on August 18, left State Highway 3 through the gorge closed for all but a few days in the past 12 months.
But the NZ Transport Agency confirmed today that the road would reopen to one lane mid to late next week.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal said crews had made consistent progress throughout the week, so the planned one-lane reopening was on schedule.
He said a controlled reopening of the road next week, similar to the partial reopening in early winter, would depend on the weather conditions.
An update would be issued next week once a reopening time was confirmed.
A full reopening was still weeks away but Mr McGonigal said getting one lane reopened would mean about two thirds of journeys through the alternative routes could return to the gorge.
“It will be hugely rewarding to have the bridge open to traffic. While it’s a similar arrangement to what we had a couple of months ago, this will be on brand new, permanent infrastructure that will serve the gorge for years to come.”
“Opening up one lane will save people money and fuel, and crucially, time. We appreciate that being able to spend an extra half hour with your loved ones every day can make a big difference, and from next week this will once again be a reality.”
Mr McGonigal said the project has been successfully progressed on an accelerated timeframe, enabling the road to open sooner.
“Normally a project of this scale would take one or two years to plan, design and build, and the team have carried out a remarkable coordinated effort in getting so much done in so little time.”
Bad weather has continued to affect the alternative routes, and the reopening would provide relief to enable these routes to recover from the pounding they had from taken from heavy rain and traffic over winter.
“Mother Nature’s kept us busy on the alternative routes, and we thank motorists for their ongoing care and patience in challenging conditions. Wet weather makes the road more vulnerable to damage and also makes it difficult to repair. As soon as the sun comes out, our contractors leap at the chance to patch up the road. This means that during drier weather, people will notice the Higgins crews out in force working hard to fill in the potholes and make the road safer.”
Next week’s reopening will involve one-way traffic from Woodville to Ashhurst (East to West) between 8am and 6pm.
Two-way traffic, controlled by traffic lights, will be let through at night-time. At all other times, people travelling from Ashhurst to Woodville (West to East) would continue to use the alternative routes of the Saddle Rd and Pahiatua Track.
- © Fairfax NZ News