Road repairs on State Highway 1 through the Mangamuka Gorge are making good progress and Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency says the road will be open to light vehicles over Easter.
The plan is to open the road from Friday to Monday over the Easter weekend with light vehicles travelling in each direction in one-way convoys approximately every fifteen minutes. The convoys will run from 8:00am to 7:00pm, says Waka Kotahi Northland System Manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult.
“Motorists will have to approach the convoys with some flexibility as they won’t run to a strict timetable. It will depend on how many vehicles turn up on the day and people might miss getting on the end of a convoy and have to wait up to thirty minutes for the next one. The good news though is that they will get through.”
Jacqui Hori-Hoult says Waka Kotahi understands the inconvenience to the local community and impact on businesses of having to go via the SH10 detour route which adds time and cost to the journey.
“We opened the road for three weeks over Christmas and we’re looking for more opportunities to allow public access. If the Easter convoys work well and there’s a demand, we’ll open the road to convoys on most weekends after that.”
“There will be some weekends where the work is at a stage where it won’t be possible for safety reasons to allow the public through the work area. We’ll give 48 hours’ notice of those weekend closures.”
Meanwhile, heavy vehicles will have to keep using the SH10 detour route.
Jacqui Hori-Hoult says work to restore the road to two lanes by the middle of the year is going to plan and hasn’t been affected by COVID-19 lockdowns or bad weather.
“Most of the work crew are from Auckland so they are operating on site under Alert Level 3 conditions, working in bubbles with strict social distancing and hygiene measures in place.”
At the site of the big slip under the road that closed the gorge last July, work is progressing to install capping beams that tie together and stabilise the new pile wall supporting the road.
Earthworks have also started, cutting into the bank above the road to widen it for two lanes of traffic. That section of hillside is historically unstable so a 135 metre long wall of concrete piles and panels is being constructed to protect the road. There will be 45 concrete and steel piles 15 metres long in the wall with panels two to four metres wide inserted between the piles.
“The instability of the hillside above the road is one of the reasons we won’t be able to open the road every weekend. As we put in the piles, we have to follow up with the panels to stabilise the wall. We can’t leave the hillside exposed for long periods, like over a weekend.”
Meanwhile closer to the road summit, piling will be completed this week on a second slip under the road where the road surface has slumped by more than a metre.
Twenty piles have been drilled to form a supporting wall and a capping beam will be installed before the road surface is rebuilt and sealed.
The total estimated cost of the Mangamuka Gorge repairs is 13.8M. This includes the ongoing slip repairs and the cost of the initial emergency response to last July’s storm damage.
While SH1 through the Mangamuka Gorge is closed, the recommended detour route to the Far North is SH10, which adds 20-30 minutes to the journey. Motorists are advised to plan ahead and allow extra time.
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