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Construction starts on SH73 Mingha Bluff realignment

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Major safety improvements are on the way for drivers travelling between Christchurch and the West Coast, with construction now underway on the State Highway 73 (SH73) Mingha Bluff Realignment just east of Arthur's Pass Township.

The first sod was turned this afternoon on a project that’s expected to cost $22 million and take around two years to complete. This is one of five critically important highway projects included in the government’s accelerated regional highways package announced last June.

NZ Transport Agency Highways Manager, Colin Knaggs said the Mingha Bluff Realignment works would deliver the most significant safety improvements on SH73 between Christchurch and Greymouth in more than a decade.

The project will improve safety on a 5km length of SH73 from Mingha Bluff to Rough Creek which is narrow at many points and has tight corners that restrict visibility for road users.

Mr Knaggs said the project would provide a safer and more forgiving route, with many tight curves removed, dips and hollows smoothed and a wider 9m carriageway.

“SH73 is a crucial link connecting Christchurch and the West Coast, and this work will significantly improve the safety of that link.”

The highway will be realigned closer to the railway line and widened to improve safety and reliability, at the same time minimising environmental impacts on Arthur’s Pass National Park.

Mr Knaggs said other sections of the highway have undergone substantial upgrades in the past with projects such as the Otira Viaduct and Candy's Bend improvements. These have seen a steady increase in traffic as drivers now view this as a safer and more reliable route.

The improvements will be sympathetic to the National Park's natural, historic and scenic character, and offer greater opportunities for visitors to enjoy the breath taking scenery. Ecological effects will be minimised through landscaping, storm water treatment and careful project construction.

The Agency have worked closely with DOC to ensure the design includes a range of measures to minimise environmental impacts on Arthur's Pass National Park, for example the exposed aggregate finish on retaining walls will blend in with the surrounding environment. And while much improved the road will still fit in with the existing mountainous setting, said Mr Knaggs. The Agency has also worked with Ngai Tahu to ensure the project is mindful of the iwi's traditional association with the area and ongoing relationships with the natural environment. An interpretation panel detailing Ngai Tahu’s special connections with this land will be installed in the area he said.

The project is very close to the busy rail line and will require careful coordination with KiwiRail during the construction.

The project team will work hard to ensure drivers using this road are well informed of traffic management or delays on this route.

For more information about this project go to:

SH73 Arthurs Pass (Mingha Bluff realignment)
http://www.nzta.govt.nz/network/projects/project.html?ID=150(external link)

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