NZ Transport Agency is set carry out a critical assessment of the damage to the underlying road and bridges at the Manawatu Gorge slip site early next week, as crews continue strong progress peeling back the layers of dirt blocking the highway.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager says the amount of slip dirt is down to around 40,000 cubic metres, and early next week engineering specialists will be able to assess the damage to the road and bridges, ahead of making critical decisions on the fastest approach to safely reopening the road.
"We've got the amount of dirt down to 40,000 cubic metres, and while that's still a hell of a lot of dirt, we're getting closer and closer to the bridges, and we expect we'll be able to take a good enough look next week to get a head start on the final stages of work.
"At the current rate of approximately 3,000m3 every 24 hours, another couple of weeks should see the final truckloads of debris leaving the gorge."
Mr McGonigal says inspections yesterday afternoon revealed that there may be a significant collapse along one section of the bridge at the Woodville end, and earlier inspections have suggested that damage to the bridges is likely to be serious. Crews have almost cleared a large section of the debris through part of the affected section of road, and this will be the key focus of Monday's inspections.
"We're throwing all the resources we can at this, and have brought in experts from five specialist organisations to collaborate in this assessment, as well as extra contractors to push us through to the end."
Mr McGonigal says the timeframe towards getting the gorge reopened is likely to depend on Monday's assessment, and an update will be issued next week.