The NZ Transport Agency says ancillary works at the State Highway 3 Manawatu Gorge slip site are continuing to progress well, with rock bolting now completed and traffic flowing smoothly through the site.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says rock bolting work - the drilling of steel rods into the hillside to help secure the slope - is now finished, bringing the gorge another step closer to being opened fully to two lanes in all sections. The road is currently open to two lanes, but with a couple of short one-lane sections controlled by traffic signals.
Mr McGonigal says crews are continuing to wrap the slope in protective netting to help contain minor rock spills, and are also building a rockfall protection fence. Work on the netting and the fence is due to be completed in the next two to three weeks. Meanwhile, 500m east of the slip site, a half-bridge is being repaired following damage from a minor rockfall last month, and this work is expected to be completed next month.
"The bridges have long been completed, and the work we're doing now is largely precautionary stuff to provide an extra layer of protection and reassurance for motorists. It's pretty fiddly stuff, but it's important to get the job finished and do it properly," says Mr McGonigal.
"The traffic signal operation has been working smoothly. Drivers have been patient and courteous, which the crews really appreciate, as it helps to keep traffic moving while also protecting the safety of workers. While delays for motorists are minor, we're really keen to kiss those niggly holdups goodbye. We're pleased with the progress the troops have made, and we reckon the gorge will be back to full, free-flowing function by the end of November at the latest."
Mr McGonigal says the second and final road surface will be laid down in November when the weather is more settled. This will effectively be the 'last coat of paint' on the job.
NZTA crews are continuing to carry out running repairs on the alternative routes, and are working closely with Tararua District Council to arrange handover back to council control in the near future, although no timeframe has been set at this stage.
Investigations into options for an alternative route upgrade are continuing, and are due to be completed by the end of the year. This is expected to be followed by design and construction work next year.