The NZ Transport Agency says it will start opening State Highway 11 past the Lemon’s Hill slip next week for a limited time each day.
Motorists are advised the openings starting from Monday are not guaranteed every day and one way traffic in convoys will be strictly controlled. People will need to arrive early at the control points either side of the slip to ensure they get through or continue to use the detour route.
SH11 will be opened each day between 7.30-8.30am and again between 4.30-6pm. At all other times, the highway will remain closed, says the Transport Agency’s System Manager Steve Mutton.
The road has been closed to all traffic since heavy rain from ex tropical Cyclone Fehi brought down a huge slip above the road on 13 February.
The road opening will be subject to daily safety checks, weather conditions and ongoing monitoring of the slip face.
“If there is any movement or ground instability, the road will be closed immediately. This means daily access cannot be guaranteed, and the decision to open the road each day won’t be made until the last minute,” says Mr Mutton.
One lane will be open through the slip site with stop/go traffic control and a maximum speed of 30km/h. Drivers are asked to keep to the speed limit to ensure their safety on the narrow road and the safety of the traffic management crews.
Over dimension loads will not be permitted access during the controlled openings.
“Opening times are limited as all earthmoving will stop while the road is open, which means slip repair work will be slowed down. We also need to limit the partial re opening to daylight hours as our 'spotters' standing on the hillside need clear visibility to monitor for any slip movement.”
“The Transport Agency acknowledges the disruption and inconvenience of having the road between Paihia and Kawakawa closed since February. We’ve worked hard within necessary safety constraints to restore this connection for local residents, businesses and visitors to the Bay of Islands. We thank everyone for their understanding and patience,” says Mr Mutton.
Meanwhile work continues at pace, depending on the weather, on stabilising the hillside. Crews are working from the top down, cutting huge 5 metre benches or steps in the hillside to remove unstable material. For weeks, it had to carted off the top of the hillside, which was slow and difficult. But now it’s being pushed down the hillside and this has speeded up the work, with up to 2,000 cubic metres of loose material being removed each day.
When the road is closed, the sign posted detour is via State Highways 1, 10 and 11. With increased traffic on the detour, drivers should allow up to 30 minutes extra for the journey between Kawakawa and Paihia. We ask motorists to drive with care and to the road conditions, and to allow enough time to get to their destination safely.
For more information, visit the SH11 Lemon’s Hill slip repair project page: www.nzta.govt.nz/lemons-hill