The NZ Transport Agency says State Highway 6 north of the West Coast settlement of Harihari could be closed for at least two days after flood waters from the Wanganui River gouged away about 40 metres of highway on the northern approach to a single lane bridge spanning the river.
The NZTA's Senior Asset Manager for the West Coast, Mark Pinner, says we are preparing to transport a Bailey Bridge to Harihari from Christchurch to provide a temporary access to the existing 180 metre-long single lane bridge across the river, if this needed.
"A structural engineer is inspecting the existing bridge, but it's likely the Bailey Bridge could provide the quickest and safest option to get the highway re-opened again. Our contractors are already on site lifting large boulders into the flood waters to try to divert the Wanganui River back onto its original course - that will hopefully help us assess the significant damage caused when the river changed course earlier, and allow the subsequent work to proceed more quickly," Mr Pinner says. "We are working with the Police and local authorities on the Coast to get the highway re-opened as quickly as we can."
The NZTA says there are no other alternative routes in that region between the West Coast and Wanaka and Queenstown, and drivers are being diverted east of the Southern Alps.
That journey will have to be made via SH7 and Hamner Springs because flood waters at Kellys Creek and Yorkeys Creeks have closed SH73 – the Arthurs Pass link between the West Coast and Canterbury - overnight.
Mr Pinner says the flooding on SH73 will be reassessed in the morning before the highway is re-opened.
"The closures will add many hours to a journey and we ask that people allow plenty of time for their journeys and drive with patience and care to reach their destinations safely," says Mr Pinner.
Further Information is available at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link)