State Highway 21 (Airport Road), just south of Hamilton, has now been reopened with a temporary one-lane bailey bridge taking traffic over the Waikato River at The Narrows.
The bailey bridge is open to vehicular traffic only, with no access provided for cyclists and pedestrians. Traffic signals are operating on either side of the bailey bridge to control the one way traffic.
NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) State Highway Manager Kaye Clark says, “While providing for walking and cycling is a high priority for us, the timing phases of the traffic signals do not allow for the longer time required for a cyclist to cross the bridge and it is therefore not safe for them to use it.”
The 52 metre-long bailey bridge was placed across the Waikato River on Tuesday 12 October. This was followed by the installation and sealing of the bridge deck. The NZTA has also widened the highway on both sides of the river over the past week to enable traffic to access the bailey bridge and installed safety rails and additional street lighting.
Mrs Clark says, “We are very pleased to have been able to assemble, install and open the bailey bridge to traffic in just four weeks. It normally takes six to eight weeks to install a bailey bridge of this type for use by the travelling public. I’d like to say a huge thank you to everyone who helped us achieve this, and also to the travelling public for their patience during the closure.”
Work to reinforce the Waikato River banks is currently continuing to protect the existing Narrows Bridge from further erosion.
Mrs Clark says the existing Narrows Bridge will reopen to one lane of traffic once the NZTA has confirmed there has been no further erosion. This will happen after the river levels drop sufficiently to enable the monitoring of the banks to be completed.
Once the existing Narrows Bridge is reopened it will be restricted to one lane of traffic until the Waikato River bank erosion protection and stabilisation work is completed in about three to four months. The temporary bailey bridge will remain open until this work has been completed and the Narrows Bridge can be restored to full two-lane operation. Once the Narrows Bridge is reopened to one-lane of traffic, the traffic signals will be removed and the existing bridge will carry westbound traffic (ie vehicles heading to the airport) and the bailey bridge will carry eastbound traffic.
Mrs Clark expects that the existing Narrows Bridge may need to be closed for further short periods over the next few months to allow the repair work to be carried out. During these closures traffic will be reduced back to one lane over the bailey bridge, and controlled by traffic lights.
Overweight and overwidth heavy vehicles will not be able to travel over either bridge and will need to use alternative routes until the bank stabilisation works have been fully completed.