The NZ Transport Agency has confirmed the initial hours of operation for State Highway 1 (SH1) north and south of Kaikoura will be 7am until 8.30pm, when the road reopens next month.*
NZ Transport Agency Earthquake Recovery Manager Tim Crow says the decision to initially re-open during daylight hours only has been made with the safety of road users in mind.
“We’re committed to re-opening the road in time for the holidays so that local residents and visitors can make their way up and down the coastal corridor. When the road reopens several sites will still be under construction. There will be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go traffic controls, so we will need to close the sections north and south of Kaikoura at night as a safety precaution. The opening hours will give our road crews enough daylight on either side to check the route after closing and before opening.”
The section north of Kaikoura will be closed at night between Clarence and Mangamaunu. South of Kaikoura the night closure will be between Goose Bay and Peketa. Crews will drive through both closure sites before 7am each day to ensure the road is safe for opening and another drive through will be carried out each evening to ensure all traffic has cleared the road before nightfall.
The reopening of SH1 on Friday 15 December will give people two viable options for travel around the upper South Island, with the alternate route (via Lewis Pass) remaining a reliable option for travel.
Mr Crow says that whatever route people choose to take, the Transport Agency is urging them to allow plenty of extra time when planning their journeys and to check the latest conditions at least two hours before travel (and at key route decision points when driving) so that they can get to their destination safely in case of delays.
“Journey time estimates are as accurate as we can make them, based on our constant monitoring of the network and ongoing assessment of traffic patterns. However, this is a unique situation where it’s difficult to predict how the traffic will split across both routes. Unexpected events such as a crash, high volumes of traffic, ongoing wet weather or seismic activity can cause delays so it’s important that travellers allow plenty of time in case something happens. We don’t want anyone to miss their flight or ferry sailing because they didn’t allow enough time. Given the restrictions which will remain in place including some areas where the speed limit will be down to 30km, it won’t be possible to make up time.”
Information for people planning travel on either route is available at www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c(external link). The page will be updated regularly with more information – including photos and video footage - about what to expect on the route as the reopening date approaches.
Mr Crow says that the number of worksites on SH1 will be reduced between 15 December and 7 January to help with traffic flow but will ramp up again after the holidays.
“We want to ensure that people’s journeys are as smooth and reliable as possible over the holiday period, and we also want to give the road crews a well-deserved break. From 8 January we’ll be back working at full capacity to finish and improve the road.”
*Note: The exact time of the road re-opening on 15 December is yet to be confirmed.