The NZ Transport Agency says crews are close to laying down the new road surface on the rebuilt section of road at the Manawatu Gorge, and the countdown has begun for a two-phased reopening of the road in September.
NZTA state highways manager David McGonigal says crews have nearly completed work linking the new structures with the existing pieces of road either side, and work will soon begin building the new road surface.
“We’re getting close enough to start preparing for the reopening of the road, and we've determined that a two-phased approach will get the most people back on the road as soon as possible, with one lane open at first then moving to both lanes once work is completed.”
“It’s going to be hugely satisfying to get started on the new road surface, because that's a real “light at the end of the tunnel’ stage.”
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA expects that one lane will be reopened by early September, with similar arrangements in place to when the temporary road was opened in late May, except it will be on a finished, sealed road surface. The road is expected to be fully open by the end of September.
“Given that our initial estimate in late May was a late September opening, we’re really pleased that the crew have put their foot down to ensure the road will be open to most vehicles well before then. Of course, the team won’t be ready to take a breath until the job’s done and we have a shiny new section of road opened 24/7 to everyone in both directions.”
Mr McGonigal says crews are continuing geotechnical assessments and rock anchoring (inserting steel rods in the slipface to help secure it) to ensure the site is sturdy and geologically sound before reopening it to the public. Crews will also be scaling the slipface to install rockfall netting to provide an extra line of defence against rock spills.
He says drainage channels have been built into the hillside, releasing around 700 lires of water a day during wet conditions and helping to future-proof the hillside by removing moisture that can cause slips.
“Some crew members have even been game enough to sample the water produced through the drainage outlets, and apparently it’s crystal clear and tastes even better than bottled water, although we’re still encouraging them to stick to their own supplies.”
He says crews are continuing to patrol the alternative routes, and he reminded drivers to heed the winter weather conditions and drive with a ‘safety first’ rather than a ‘get there first’ approach.
For more information about the Manawatu Gorge, people can visit www.nzta.govt.nz/manawatu-gorge(external link), or email email@example.com.