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Manawatu Gorge temporary road now open

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The NZ Transport Agency has reopened the Manawatu Gorge to one-way traffic from Woodville to Ashhurst, the first time the gorge has been open to traffic since August.

NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the first cars rolled through the new temporary road at around 4pm as planned.

"There's been smiling and waving - motorists and our crews are jubilant to see the road up and running after battling for so long to get to this point."

Mr McGonigal says the next priority would be getting two way traffic through at night. He said the NZTA would monitor traffic using the temporary road closely, and is expected two-way operation at night will be in place tomorrow night at the latest, weather and site conditions permitting.

Once overnight two-way traffic flow is in place, the 'seven till seven' operation times would be rigidly enforced, and people travelling from Ashhurst to Woodville outside those times would need to use the alternative routes.

Mr McGonigal says the NZTA would keep a watchful eye on how well the temporary road is functioning and stressed that the road was subject to closure if there were any operational or safety concerns. Drivers should observe signage and road markings at all times and remain aware of oncoming traffic on all routes. Motorists should allow extra time for delays as speed restrictions were in place and traffic would need to be stopped at times to allow construction vehicles through.

"We're asking people to stay alert, drive with extra caution, and if in doubt, follow the signs."

"This is a great breakthrough, and once it's flowing both ways at night, that'll get a large number of trucks through the gorge, restoring peaceful nights to the Ashhurst community while also paying economic dividends for the Manawatu region."

Crews were onsite working to rebuild the bridges to get the road fully reopened later this year.

Important information:

  • Temporary road to be open to one-way traffic coming from Woodville for the time being.
  • Once night-time two-way traffic operation is confirmed, traffic in both directions will be allowed from 7pm to 7am. No two-way traffic would be permitted outside of these hours, with the exception of emergency vehicles and construction vehicles travelling to and from the slip site.
  • The status of the Gorge is subject to change at short notice – follow the signs at all times and allow time for delays.
  • This is a temporary road, and while crews have 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, and it will need to be monitored constantly and repaired from time to time.
  • Safety remains paramount, and the NZTA will not hesitate to close the temporary Gorge road if it has any concerns about its safety, or if repairs are required.
  • Vehicles travelling from Ashhurst towards Woodville / Hawke's Bay will need to continue using the Saddle Road during the day (and at night-time until two-way operation is confirmed). Some vehicles may be seen travelling West-East during the day, because construction vehicles will continue to enter and exit the site from both directions - this doesn't mean other vehicles can do so.  If you are travelling East from Ashhurst during the restricted times, please don't ask to be let through - the answer will be no. 

The partial reopening of the gorge will be strictly subject to weather and onsite conditions. People are advised to check the NZTA’s Manawatu Gorge web page(external link), or email manawatugorge@nzta.govt.nz for more information.

For more information contact

Anthony Frith
Media Manager – Central
NZ Transport Agency
04 894 5251
027 213 7617
anthony.frith@nzta.govt.nz

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