Increased monitoring and night time closures on the Milford Road from tonight will continue until the weather allows the NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) to finish an inspection of a rock fall area above the western entrance to the Homer Tunnel.
Bad weather prevented geotechnical experts completing the inspection this week. This rock fall area has been closely monitored since late last year following concerns about its stability. The night time closures are from 5.30pm to 7.30am.
NZTA Southland Area Manager Peter Robinson says the weather is expected to be good enough towards the middle of next week to complete the inspection. The various measures are in place to ensure road user safety, including on-site staff at the tunnel using high powered cameras and traffic signals to manage traffic, if rock at the site appears to be failing.
“We do not expect the overnight road closures to cause major disruptions with tour operators now running their winter sailing schedules that allow people to leave Milford before night fall. Currently less than 20 vehicles are using the road each night.”
This heightened state of monitoring coincides with the first run of winter conditions on the road with snow and variable freeze/thaw cycles occurring at the rock fall area.
Mr Robinson said we were aware the freeze/thaw conditions at the rock fall site would occur around this time of the year and now need to determine how these could heighten the rock fall risk. The inspection we are trying to finish will provide important information to do this and enable us to refine our safety thresholds to keep road users safe.
The latest information about these night time closures are available at www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) or by phoning 0800 444449.