The NZ Transport Agency has announced it expects to reopen the Manawatu Gorge to one lane of traffic this Thursday 31 May, just in time for Queens Birthday weekend.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says strong progress has been made over the weekend constructing the temporary road, and it is expected to be opened on Thursday, weather and site conditions permitting. An opening time and details on night-time traffic arrangements will be confirmed on Wednesday.
"This is a really positive development, and we're delighted to be so close to this milestone before Queens Birthday weekend, and just in time for the arrival of winter. The team have worked their backsides off to get to this point, and it will be a special moment to see the first cars roll through."
"There's still plenty of work to be done in the next couple of days and beyond, and we'll need to keep a close eye on weather and site conditions to see how the temporary road holds up. We must remember, this is a temporary road, and while we've worked hard to make it as tough and resilient as possible, the reality is that it will be more vulnerable to wear and tear and erosion, so we'll need to monitor it closely at all times."
Mr McGonigal says safety remains paramount, and the NZTA will not hesitate to close the temporary Gorge road if it has any concerns about the safety of the temporary road, or if repairs are required.
"Traffic arrangements and opening times will be subject to change at short notice, so we ask that motorists follow the signs at all times, and allow enough time up their sleeves to use the alternative routes if required."
Mr McGonigal says because the temporary road is restricted to one lane in width, the reopening will apply only to daytime traffic travelling East-West between Woodville and Ashhurst, although the NZTA expects to allow two way traffic at night when vehicle numbers are lower. Vehicles travelling from Ashhurst towards Woodville / Hawke's Bay will need to continue using the Saddle Road during the day.
Mr McGonigal says while this milestone is great news, motorists should be advised that due to the one-lane restrictions, and the need to allow site access and egress to construction vehicles in both directions, motorists should expect some delays.
Mr McGonigal stresses that the Manawatu Gorge will not be open to vehicles travelling from Ashhurst during the day, and any such vehicles attempting to use the gorge in this direction will be asked to turn around and use the Saddle Road.
"We will continue to work hard, 24-7 where possible, to get the bridges replaced so we can allow the gorge to be restored to full capacity for everyone.
"The public's support and patience has been appreciated every single day of the last nine months, and it's been a huge motivating factor for the team as they've battled to get the road reopened."
The partial reopening of the gorge will be strictly subject to weather and onsite conditions. Further details of the opening arrangements will be confirmed on Wednesday. People are advised to check the NZTA's Manawatu Gorge web page, or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.