Crews have been working hard to clear the slips in Waimana Gorge and complete the redecking project on Pekatahi Bridge after both parts of State Highway 2 were affected by Cyclones Cook and Debbie.
The one-way Pekatahi Bridge between Awakeri and Taneatua, was closed to traffic in early February to allow contractors to replace the deteriorating timber deck and remove the existing railway tracks.
The structure of the bridge was unaffected by the record rain levels brought by Cyclone Debbie in April, but the area where the wooden deck panels were being assembled was flooded and a portion of the wooden deck washed away. The bridge abutment on the Taneatua side was also damaged.
Waimana Gorge was closed after a 70 metre high slip fell on the road during Cyclone Debbie. One lane was able to be opened for a short time but further rain has brought down more debris and the ongoing rain and wet ground conditions continue to cause safety issues for the public and contractors.
NZ Transport Agency Bay of Plenty Highway Manager Niclas Johansson says the damage has been extensive.
“The unprecedented river levels resulted in floodwaters sweeping away 40 percent of the decking timber that was about to be laid on Pekatahi Bridge and caused damage to the road near the bridge.
“At Waimana Gorge work is progressing to clear the slip but persistent rain is making it difficult to do the work needed to make the slope safe.”
Mr Johansson says there are new estimated opening dates for both sections of the State Highway but they are dependent on weather conditions.
“The crews have been working hard to get the bridge and the gorge open for the community again and we now estimate the bridge should open in early July and the gorge should open around the middle of June.
“The gorge site is also being monitored daily to identify ways to speed up the process.
“We know the extra time the detour added to people’s journeys and the road closure is frustrating but we are doing everything we can to get the project finished and the road open again as soon as possible,” Mr Johansson says.
Pekatahi Bridge will have a temporary surface until roading crews can return in the warmer months and apply the final seal. Waimana Gorge may open to one lane when the area is considered safe but it will depend on the weather over the coming weeks.
People can use our website to confirm when the sections of State Highway 2 have opened and other road conditions across New Zealand: www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link)