The Waitaki Valley community turned out in force today (Saturday 7 June) to celebrate the opening of the second and last of the two new bridges that the NZ Transport Agency has built over the Waitaki River on State Highway 82.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean opened the bridge in a traditional ribbon cutting ceremony attended by more than 400 guests, including Waitaki District Council Mayor Gary Kircher, Waimate District Council Mayor Craig Rowley and the Transport Agency's Southern Regional Director Jim Harland.
Mr Harland told the gathering that the opening of the 206-metre long bridge heralded a new era in road transport for the Waitaki Valley.
"These new bridges not only provide the Kurow and Hakataramea communities with a secure road link across the Waitaki River to access employment and essential services but also support economic growth in the region.
"This is a key regional and freight route. These two new bridges are capable of carrying larger and heavier freight vehicles for the more efficient and safer movement of goods, as well as providing a safe and reliable alternative route if State Highway 1 is ever closed."
He said safety had been a priority with the project and it was great to see that both new bridges provided a barrier-separated pathway for cyclists and pedestrians.
"Not only does this enable local people to walk or cycle safely between the two communities but it also supports the tourism industry by providing a safe passageway for cyclists who want to visit the Waitaki Valley and stay a little longer to enjoy its hospitality."
While both bridges are now open, the contractor McConnell Dowell Constructors will remain on site until early October, deconstructing the timber bridges, completing development of the road approaches to both the new bridges and sealing the new bridge deck.
"Access across the two bridges will remain single-lane until the timber bridges have been deconstructed."
Mr Harland says by the end of this year, all the work will be completed and two spans from the old timber bridges will be permanently displayed on Kurow Island to preserve part of the area's history.
The two new two-lane bridges, which have been built on State Highway 82, replace the two ageing 133-year-old single-lane timber bridges. The $20.1 million project is part of the Transport Agency's $1 billion programme of investment in Canterbury's transport network from 2012 to 2015.
The Waimate and North Otago highland pipe bands joined forces for today's event, in a repeat of what happened when the bridge on State Highway 1 at Glenavy was opened several decades ago.
Two of today's pipers – Russell Powell from Waimate and Rex Murray from North Otago – both played at the Glenavy Bridge opening in 1953.
For more information please contact:
Media Manager - Christchurch
T: 03 964 2885
M: 021 427 442