Editorial: Road to Sumner a 'goat track'

Shock absorbers no longer absorbing, tyres cut and rims buckled, suspensions out of suspension - such is the lot of many vehicles in all areas of the city after navigating quake-ravaged roads for 23 months.

For those living east of the Ferrymead Bridge, vehicle damage is more than the common lot. It is pervasive. Residents have become friends with their mechanics.

That is because of the atrocious condition of the only road that can take them to and from their homes and the city - a roadway that has been little repaired after suffering much damage in the big quakes.

It is bumpy, out of camber, narrowed, ill-patched and subject to plagues of orange cones to the extent of being dangerous. A driver could easily misjudge the obstacle course with damaging consequences. Cyclists ride a potentially lethal circuit. Taxis avoid the area. Businesses are blighted.

Other Christchurch roads probably are in worse condition, but no other main road. While the city council and associated agencies have made an outstanding job of getting the main arteries running smoothly, the road to Sumner remains a goat track.

It is so severely damaged that complete replacement is probably needed, and many residents understand that and can wait for it. What they do not understand is the lack of sufficient temporary repair.

Those who rarely visit the area might underestimate the volume of traffic that uses the main road, but the expansion of suburbs up the hills and over Scarborough has been dramatic, making the area heavily populated. All those people must use the main road to commute, as do the businesses that have crowded around Sumner, Redcliffs and Ferrymead.

The traffic volumes are further increased because hill-living families tend to have two cars and their children have to travel to distant schools. Tourists to attractive Sumner boost the congestion.

All the road's problems are summed up in the Ferrymead Bridge. It had long been identified as one of Christchurch's most quake-prone pieces of infrastructure, because of its vulnerable engineering and its vital role for the eastern suburbs in carrying people and their water, waste and phone links.

But progress towards remedying the problem was deplorably slow, with the council dithering about what to do, to the extent that on September 4, 2010, the bridge was highly vulnerable. Its withstanding of that quake and subsequent shakes has been more due to luck than engineering.

In the weeks following September 4, residents came to look on the twisted bridge as one of the few hopeful sights in their battered area. It let them get to school and work and fed the water that trickled back into their homes. Then in the February quake it lifted from the road on either side, and a temporary fix remains as an introductory clunk to the route to the beach.

Last week we printed the news that no timetable has been agreed to replace the bridge and reconfigure its approach roads. As a result, the 30,000 vehicles that daily cross the bridge are inconvenienced and eastern estuary residents left vulnerable.

Councillor Yani Johanson, usually attentive to his constituents, tells them to call the council and complain.

What is needed from him and all councillors is insistence that the bridge, the causeway and the entire Sumner road are rapidly returned to a proper state.

The Press