The NZ Transport Agency has extended the opening hours for two-way operation of the temporary road through the Manawatu Gorge, following a successful first week of operation.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the NZTA has elected to extend the night-time opening hours of the gorge to two way traffic, after traffic flowed smoothly and without incident throughout its first week of operation. The temporary road was opened under restricted hours last Thursday, for the first time since August 2011.
The two-way operation will now run from 6pm to 8am, effective immediately. It was previously 7pm-7am. The Gorge is open 24 hours a day to traffic travelling between Woodville and Ashhurst, but vehicles travelling from Ashhurst towards Woodville must use the alternative routes outside of the 6pm-8am window.
"We're really pleased to be extending this window to give traffic coming from Ashhurst an extra hour in the early evening and also an extra hour in the morning. This will give people more flexibility, especially those who use the Manawatu Gorge to commute to and from work."
"We took a good look at traffic volumes and travel patterns over the last week, and we decided to extend the hours after noting that traffic volumes are low enough between the extended times to safely and smoothly accommodate two-way traffic."
"We're very aware that for every motorist who gets through, that's time and petrol saved, and we hope it helps to make life a little easier for people who rely on this route."
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA will continue to monitor traffic volumes to ensure the best possible arrangement is in place, and stresses the Gorge is subject to closure at short notice.
"While it's great to have it open for longer, it's a changeable situation and we remind people that we may have to close the road or change the opening times at short notice. We ask that motorists leave a little extra time up their sleeve and if in doubt, please follow the signs."
Mr McGonigal also stressed the importance of motorists driving slowly through the temporary road.
"We have 30km/h speed restrictions in place, and it's really important that all motorists strictly observe these restrictions at all times to minimise damage to the temporary road, and most crucially, to protect the workers onsite."
Mr McGonigal says the work site is a hive of activity, and despite poor weather, good progress has been made throughout the past week.
"The weather over the last few days has been pretty lousy, but the team have soldiered on, and have made strong progress pouring the bridge piles. Next week we'll be working to pour the remaining piles, while continuing our drilling operations and putting up protective netting on the slope."
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA is continuing to carry out maintenance and repairs of the alternative routes, and reiterates that while traffic levels on these routes have dropped, they remain two-way roads and people must observe the speed restrictions and stay alert for oncoming traffic.
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA are grateful to motorists and contractors for helping the partial reopening of the gorge to go so smoothly.