NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager says a tired but relieved crew have finished laying the road surface, painted fresh road markings, and are packing up the site that has been a hive of activity for fifteen months.
Mr McGonigal says the road was reopened to two lanes several weeks ago, but ancillary jobs to put the icing on the cake have now been wrapped up.
"The crew have stuck at the task for a long time, and they can now reflect on a job well done. They've rebuilt an entirely new piece of highway in a superbly orchestrated blur of activity, and words can't express the value of their hard work for the Manawatu region and beyond."
"Every cliché about true grit and Kiwi 'number eight wire' ingenuity comes to mind, but at the end of the day, they had a job to do - a huge job - and they did it."
Mr McGonigal says the half-bridge repairs have been completed just up the road from the main slip site. Crews have also finished protecting the hillside with about a rugby field's worth of rockfall netting.
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA are grateful to the people of Manawatu and beyond for their patience, perseverance and understanding over the last fifteen months. He says while the job at the Manawatu Gorge was now finished, the NZTA would continue its focus on improving the Saddle Road.
"We recognise the importance of ensuring the people of Manawatu have peace of mind in the form of a solid alternative route. We'll be working closely with Tararua District Council and Palmerston North City Council on the rehabilitation and upgrade of the Saddle Road.
"The Manawatu Gorge is, and always will be, a vital lifeline. While the last closure was an anomaly in terms of its scale and duration, the reality is that closures will happen from time to time, and we need to be ready. We're now better than prepared than ever before, and we're dedicated to ensuring the safety and security of the Manawatu community through the gorge, and with the provision of a sturdy backup route when required."
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