Motorists travelling through the State Highway 3 Manawatū Gorge will soon have better protection from Mother Nature than ever before, with the NZ Transport Agency starting work on more than $2m of protective measures.
Transport Agency Palmerston North highways manager David McGonigal says crews will begin work on Monday to install around 1.5km of netting to protect motorists from rockfalls in the Manawatū Gorge.
“The Manawatū Gorge already has a large expanse of rockfall netting, and that’s set to grow. This work will target a number of areas that were affected by the June floods, and then over summer we’ll be addressing a number of other locations which warrant some TLC.”
Mr McGonigal says the work will use what is believed to be the country’s only telehandler (essentially a cross between a cherry picker and a tractor) to install the netting. This means a crane won’t be needed, enabling the road to remain open to one lane past the work sites. A crane would have required the full closure of the road.
“As well as rockfall netting, we’re also installing concrete barriers to help keep debris away from motorists, and rock nails, which are driven into the hillside to help hold it together.
“Our crews will also be scaling the hillside to clear loose material from high up on the slope.
“The Manawatū Gorge is one of the most well protected roads of its kind, and this work will enable motorists to use it with increased reassurance and freedom from disruption.
“While major slips are more difficult to prevent, it’s the smaller slips which pose a more frequent hazard to the public, and these measures will go a long way to keeping people safe while warding off short-term closures.”
Mr McGonigal says the work will be carried out during the daytime (7am to 6pm) with stop-go traffic management through the site. Delays are expected to be minor, and crews will be working to ensure any disruption is kept to a minimum.
The first phase of work, which will take place from September to November, will be targeting sites that were compromised by the floods, amounting to around 500m of new safety measures. The second phase will see another 1km of preventative netting installed throughout summer at other high-priority locations throughout the gorge.
“We’re really grateful to motorists for their patience while we get this important work done. Once it’s finished, the Gorge will be safer and more secure than ever before.”
Meanwhile, Tararua District Council are continuing work on the Saddle Road upgrade, which is fully funded by the Transport Agency and will provide a much improved alternative route in the event of future closures.