A month of public engagement with the Marlborough community on the proposal to move State Highway 1 traffic to a new bridge over the Opawa River closed last week.
NZ Transport Agency Regional director Raewyn Bleakley says the level of engagement from the local community has been pleasing on the proposal to build a new two-lane bridge on the western side of the existing Opawa Bridge, with 179 people submitting feedback and approximately 90 people attending two public information sessions.
“Public engagement is important in informing any of the proposals we prepare. I want to thank everyone who shared their thoughts on the proposal, came to a public information session or filled out a feedback form,” Ms Bleakley says.
On 11 May the Transport Agency asked for feedback on the preferred option for a new two-lane bridge. As part of its investigation, the Transport Agency identified that the existing bridge was too narrow and unsuitable to meet current transport needs. It would also be vulnerable in an earthquake and heavy flooding. With a new bridge constructed, the existing bridge, which is a Heritage NZ Category 1 Heritage Place, could be used as a pedestrian and cycle bridge.
Ms Bleakley says although the preferred option is to build a new bridge it was important for the Transport Agency find out how the local community felt about the problems with the bridge and the proposal to fix them.
“The feedback we received confirmed what the local community has been saying for some time – that the Opawa Bridge has been inadequate in serving the local needs of residents, let alone the needs of all road users of the state highway system.”
“Some people also took the opportunity to let us know that they would like a bypass which would allow heavy vehicles to detour around Blenheim township. However, a bypass of Blenheim does not change the need to replace the existing Opawa Bridge. It’s important to do this first because the majority of the Opawa Bridge’s users will continue to use it to access central Blenheim from the north. We also need to ensure we keep State Highway 1 open between Picton and Christchurch because the highway and the bridge are integral to the state highway network, particularly for freight.
A bypass remains a future option and will be considered, along with other State Highway corridor improvements, as part of the separate investigation of State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch.”
Ms Bleakley says the next step is to refine the preferred bridge replacement proposal, taking on board the community feedback.
“We’ll continue to work with key stakeholders, including the Marlborough District Council, potentially affected landowners, and the wider community to seek input on the potential design of the new bridge.
The Transport Agency expects to seek Resource Management Act consents early in 2017 and anticipates construction would start in 2018.
More information about the Opawa Bridge replacement project, including the full consideration of options is on the Transport Agency’s website www.nzta.govt.nz/projects/opawa-bridge-replacement(external link)