Victoria Bridge path upgrade making strides up high
"How are you with heights?"
And so began my phone conversation with Greg Wiechern, the project engineer overseeing the most extensive maintenance project in Victoria Bridge's history.
It was a sensible question as he was offering a tour of the scaffolding set up below the bridge, at about 40m above the Waikato River.
Suppressing an early attack of nerves, I accepted.
So, there I was, hard hat, safety glasses and a long-sleeve orange high-vis vest donned and a safety briefing complete - we were off.
Wiechern and I walked the scaffolding along the 140-metre length of the bridge from the Cambridge to the Leamington side, known in project circles as the upstream side. We were below the left-hand side of the bridge footpath as viewed from the Cambridge side to the Leamington side.
It's the first half of the bridge footpath to be upgraded and, as we walked it, Wiechern filled me in on the latest project news. The aim, he said, was to have the upstream side "open for people to be walking on" by yesterday morning.
Yes, the floor of the scaffolding has holes in it, allowing those wanting to do so the opportunity to bask in the full extent of exactly how high up you are. And, just in case you missed it, an entire 140m side (the side overlooking the river) of the scaffolding is covered with see-through blue netting. Just in case you wanted another look.
I stole a single glance.
And once I got my head around the height, I had to remember the reason I was up there - to hear about the work and how it is going. The answer - "well."
The "new" footpath width is 1.55m between balustrade posts, a roughly 450mm increase on the 1.1m of the "old" footpath, some of which is up to 92 years old. That increase is enough to allow foot traffic, those pushing bicycles or those on mobility scooters to pass beside each other with ease.
To date, 252 square metres of the "new" footpath - made of fibre reinforced plastic, or FRP in engineer speak, and weighing 700kg - has been placed.
Work on the downstream Leamington to Cambridge side, the right-hand side of the bridge as you look from Cambridge to Leamington, is now under way.
The project is due for completion next month.