The NZ Transport Agency says the new section of highway at the Manawatu Gorge is operating smoothly, and it expects to open the road to two way operation by the end of September.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says traffic has flowed smoothly across the rebuilt structures since it was opened on Wednesday afternoon.
“When we consider that when the dirt was cleared, the road was completely destroyed, it’s truly rewarding to see the road largely rebuilt and back in action.”
“It’s a huge relief to thousands of people a day, and the feedback we’ve received is that people don’t realise just how convenient the gorge is until they’ve been deprived of it for some time.”
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA was aiming to have the road opened to two lanes by the end of September, although 30km/h speed restrictions were likely as it would remain a building site for a few weeks until the work was completed.
“Getting two lanes of traffic through will be the next milestone, and the grand finale will be having the bridges completed and life going back to normal – not only for motorists, but also for the communities that have been affected.”
Mr McGonigal says the two-way operation may be extended in the weekend when traffic levels are low, and he asks motorists to keep their eyes peeled for signs guiding the way. He also stresses the importance of driving carefully and no faster than 30km/h through the site to protect the safety of workers.
“The troops are working hard in what can be pretty hostile conditions, so please look out for them and keep the speeds right down, even when the coast seems clear, because this is a building site as well as a road.”
Mr McGonigal says the partial reopening of the Gorge has taken around two-thirds of the vehicles off the Saddle Road and Pahiatua Track.
“Getting the gorge open to one lane has taken a lot of pressure off the alternative routes. This will help improve safety because there will be less traffic on the roads, and less wear and tear. It also means our crews and get in and do some more repair work without causing holdups and disruption”