The NZ Transport Agency is advising motorists in the worst affected areas of the lower North Island to continue to avoid non-essential travel following some of the worst flooding this part of the country has ever seen.
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Central Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen says that while rainfall has eased in many parts, disruption across the network remains major as crews work to get key links open.
Recently State Highway 3 at Urenui reopened to one lane, partially restoring access between Taranaki and Waikato. State highways in and out of Whanganui remain closed due to flooding.
"We are prioritising key routes such as SH3 and SH1 in order to restore full access to key centres as soon as possible. We're aware that snow is forecast in the Central Plateau in coming days, and we want to make sure we are well prepared in terms of route options. However, a lot of work still remains and crews remain out in force.
"While we appreciate that people are eager to travel, we ask that if you can delay your journeys, then do so, because that will allow time for surface flooding to subside and debris to be cleared off the highway."
Mr Owen says the sheer severity of flooding means State Highway 3 in and out of Whanganui is likely to be closed for some time while floodwaters recede.
"We appreciate the considerable impact these closures are having on the people of Whanganui."
Mr Owen says the State Highway 3 Manawatū Gorge is likely to be closed for several days to enable a detailed geotechnical assessment following a number of slips. Crews are working to restore heavy vehicle access to the Saddle Road to reopen the vital East-West freight corridor.
Crews last night successfully reopened the Waikawa Stream Bridge on State Highway 1, restoring north-south access to the lower North Island. The bridge was closed after it suffered extensive damage late last night. It remains subject to speed restrictions, and care is required on the newly laid surface.
Mr Owen said that while the reopening was great news, north-south access remains dependent on the Calico Line detour near Marton remaining open, as the highway remains closed due to flooding. A top priority is reopening the main highway to traffic once water levels subside.
“We are thrilled to reopen the key North-South lifeline, but there is still widespread disruption throughout the highway network, and our crews will continue to push hard to get roads open as soon and as safely as possible.
“To get this bridge reopened a little more than a day after its closure is phenomenal. We take our hat off to the dedicated crews who worked in atrocious conditions to get it reopened."
Mr Owen warned against travelling on roads with extensive surface flooding, even if they are open.
"Surface flooding can cover the road very quickly, so if you can't see the sides of the road because of water, then please stop and turn around.
Mr Owen says the Transport Agency are grateful to the public for their patience throughout the last two days.
"We thank the public for being so understanding during this extraordinary spate of weather."
Crews will continue to work to clear roads of slips and debris, and daylight assessments will be undertaken first thing in the morning on those highways that remain closed.
Mr Owen says the restoration effort at the Waikawa Stream Bridge, led by Capital Journeys (Fulton Hogan and Opus), involved 25 staff, four excavators, two rollers, and more than a dozen trucks.
For up to the minute information about highway conditions, please visit http://www.nzta.govt.nz/traffic(external link) or call 0800 4 HIGHWAYS
For personalised information about driving conditions on their frequently used routes, motorists can check out and sign up to On The Move at www.onthemove.govt.nz(external link).