Manawatū Gorge alternatives give little detail on costing and timeframe video

MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

NZ Transport Agency regional transport systems manager Ross I'Anson spoke to a crowd of about 300 people in Woodville about the 13 alternative Manawatū Gorge routes.

The people of Woodville have demanded cost and timing details of the 13 alternative routes to the Manawatū Gorge.

About 300 people gathered at a meeting in the town on Tuesday to discuss the options, first revealed by the NZ Transport Agency at a public meeting in Palmerston North on Monday.

The options are laid out on an online map.

Woodville residents attended a meeting to find out about the 13 alternative options to the Manawatū Gorge.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

Woodville residents attended a meeting to find out about the 13 alternative options to the Manawatū Gorge.

The gorge has been closed since April, after extensive rockfall blocked the road, and in July the transport agency announced the road will be closed indefinitely.

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Options include building a viaduct through the gorge and a partial tunnel. The options range from 6 kilometres to 19km in length. 

Contractors fix the damaged Manawatū Gorge road in May, before it was deemed unsafe for workers.
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

Contractors fix the damaged Manawatū Gorge road in May, before it was deemed unsafe for workers.

The closure of State Highway 3 through the gorge has hit Woodville particularly hard as the town on the eastern side of the ranges relies on traffic flowing between Manawatū and Hawke's Bay for retail spending.

A public meeting on Tuesday , at the Woodville Sports Stadium, followed a heated meeting in Palmerston North on Monday evening. 

Unlike Monday's meeting, where the transport agency tried to shut down public questions by asking instead that people approach staff one on one, people at the Woodville meeting were free to fire questions at regional transport systems manager Ross I'Anson. 

The 13 alternative route options are available for public viewing and comment on the NZTA website.
NZ TRANSPORT AGENCY

The 13 alternative route options are available for public viewing and comment on the NZTA website.

Dean Fitzgerald, who was at the meeting, said he was concerned about some route options going through a gorge that was prone to more slips. 

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In September, the transport agency predicted slips could be 170 times larger than the two slips that closed the gorge in April.  Up to 630,000 cubic metres of material could come crashing down. 

Fitzgerald said it would be better to look at other options. 

Ross I'Anson from the NZ Transport Agency talks to people in Woodville about possible alternative routes to the Manawatū ...
MURRAY WILSON/STUFF

Ross I'Anson from the NZ Transport Agency talks to people in Woodville about possible alternative routes to the Manawatū Gorge.

Another concern was time and costs of each option were not yet available. 

I'Anson said the only costings were those from the 2012 report, which could now be different. 

The options were simply a starting point for people to give feedback, he said.

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The options would be narrowed down and costings would be estimated by the time open days were held on October 11 and 12, I'Anson said. 

Open days will be at the Palmerston North Conference and Function Centre and the Woodville Sports Stadium.

Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis is pushing for an alternative route to the Manawatū Gorge to go through Woodville.
WARWICK SMITH/STUFF

Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis is pushing for an alternative route to the Manawatū Gorge to go through Woodville.

One public speaker asked if the road would be completed in her lifetime. 

I'Anson said it would be done as soon as possible. The transport agency is aiming to have it finished within  four years. 

Tararua District mayor Tracey Collis has been pushing for an alternative route to go through Woodville as business owners are losing out from less traffic. 

RNZ

As public meetings take place outlining alternative route options to restore the main route from East to West across the North Island, truckers, heavy road users and businesses continue to voice their frustrations. The plans don't yet have timings or prices attached to them. We discuss with the NZTA Regional transport systems manager Ross I'Anson, David Hill from the Trucking Company, Emmerson Transport Ltd, and Becky Algie, the owner of the Bridge Cafe in Ballance, near Woodville.

She said it was great news that each alternative route passed through Woodville. 

"It just takes that added stress off businesses."

The transport agency was listening to Tararua residents and that showed in the 13 options, Collis said. 

Bridge Cafe owner Rebecca Algie has been down about 70 per cent in profit since the gorge closed. Her cafe is at the Woodville end of the Manawatū Gorge. 

Before the meeting, Algie said she was feeling upbeat after finding out that 10 of the options were close to her cafe.

"It's pretty positive for us for obvious reasons, but still nothing's confirmed.

"I don't want to get my hopes up."

Palmerston North mayor Grant Smith said upon hearing that meetings were being held in Palmerston North and Woodville the council pushed for a meeting in Ashhurst. 

Ashhurst residents living around Salisbury St have been feeling the effects of the gorge closure as trucks and heavy traffic rumble by daily. 

Salisbury St leads on to the Saddle Rd, which is an alternative route to the gorge. 

With so many Ashhurst residents affected, Smith wanted the transport agency to hold a public forum for them, so there will now be a drop-in session at the Village Valley community centre from 4pm to 7pm on Wednesday.

*Audio courtesy of Radio NZ

 - Stuff

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