The NZ Transport Agency says sound progress at the gorge means the Agency's hopes of a mid-year opening remain on track, although there's still a fair bit of work to go.
Mr McGonigal says crews have completed their benching work, and the job now consists of clearing the slip from the top down.
"We had to make a few changes to the original design for Bench 5, as we are not finding material suitable to create a regular bench on. So this means our normal benching work is done and the plan now is to progressively work our way down by pushing material off the bench we currently have, and go on to road level from here.
"It's like gradually deflating an inflatable platform from underneath ourselves, until it's safe to jump off."
At the bottom of the slip, the removal of debris keeps on trucking on. Carting operations are continuing at both sides of the slip with a convoy trucking to Papatawa from the Woodville end.
"The trucks will be working seven days a week, and at this pace, we should have everything cleared by the second week of May, weather permitting."
"Once it's cleared there will still be a few more weeks before it can open, however, because we know the road and the bridges are damaged and it will take time to assess the extent of the damage and get it properly fixed."
Meanwhile, Mr McGonigal says the NZTA are currently working with the Ashhurst community to reduce local impact from the extra traffic.
"We appreciate all this extra traffic is an ongoing burden for the Ashhurst community, and it's causing a few sleepless nights. We've already put in traffic calming measures such as barriers at the sides of roads and we will continue to work with the community and look for solutions to make life a little easier for the residents."
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA has also changed priorities at the Woodlands Rd and SH3 intersection.
He also noted praise from police in recent days for the courteous behaviour of motorists, especially truckies, leading to fewer crashes on the Saddle Road and Pahiatua Track, and said the NZTA shared the police's gratitude to those driving on the alternative routes.
"It's just great to see motorists looking after one another and exercising patience and caution. Motorists and truckies deserve a pat on the back for driving safely in what we appreciate aren't ideal circumstances."
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