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Temporary fix for Auckland Harbour Bridge to start tomorrow night

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Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency is committed to doing everything possible to re-open the centre lanes of the Auckland Harbour Bridge and is working to start installing a temporary fix to the damaged bridge strut on Tuesday night.

At the same time, traffic volume data shows motorists heeded Waka Kotahi advice to avoid using SH1 and the harbour bridge during morning peak hours today. Vehicle movements were also much higher on the alternate Western Ring Route.

Waka Kotahi General Manager Transport Services Brett Gliddon says bridge engineers are making great progress on both a temporary and permanent solution to fix the bridge damage, even though it is a very complex process.

“Waka Kotahi is now confident it has a temporary solution to repair the damaged strut which will allow one extra lane in each direction to be opened on the centre span of the bridge.”

Four lanes on the bridge’s centre span are closed after two trucks were blown over by 127 kph wind gusts on Friday morning, causing significant damage to the bridge superstructure. The bridge operated at 50% capacity over the weekend and this morning with long queues on each side.

Current plans indicate work on the bridge to install the temporary solution will begin overnight on Tuesday 22 September.

“This is a complex undertaking and has never been done before so the bridge team must do extensive testing on the bridge before opening it up to live traffic.”

“This includes mathematical peer review by independent experts which we are doing in parallel to the construction of the temporary piece.”

“Once the temporary fix is in place there will be real life testing with heavy vehicles to ensure it performs to the design specifications and requirements. Only then will a final decision be made about whether the temporary fix is suitable to allow the re-opening of additional lanes.”

“Once that decision has been made it is expected that two extra lanes on the centre-span of the bridge (one northbound and one southbound) could be open up to traffic later this week.”

To enable this to happen, the southbound lanes of the Auckland Harbour Bridge into the city centre will be closed overnight on Tuesday 22 September.

In parallel, the team is working on a permanent repair of the damage to re-open all lanes on the Harbour Bridge, however this work will take some time and is weeks away from installation.

Repair work may not be visible on the bridge however there are teams working to design and peer review the replacement parts for both the temporary and permanent solution, source the materials, manufacture the part and plan for installing it, says Brett Gliddon.

“The bulk of this time is in the design, calculation and peer review of the new strut in relation to how it will impact on the performance of the whole bridge. This includes careful calculations on how to re-balance its load-bearing function.”

The new modelling is necessary because the materials of the new structure will not exactly match those that were installed 60 years ago.

While the damaged component of the structure is important, there is no risk to the structural integrity or overall safety of the Harbour Bridge.

The north and southbound clip-on lanes continue to be safe to use as they have their own supporting structure.

Many motorists avoided the bridge and took the Western Ring Route

Traffic volume data shows nearly 11,000 vehicles from the North Shore crossed the Auckland Harbour Bridge this morning between 6:00AM and 10:00AM. That was 16,000 or 60% less than at the same time last week.

Vehicles heading northbound over the bridge during this time totalled about 11,500 or 30% less than at the same time last week.

Over the weekend Waka Kotahi urged people to consider working from home if possible. We encouraged those who had to travel to leave their cars at home and use public transport. We also advised motorists to use the Western Ring Route, via SH20, SH16 and SH18 as an alternative to SH1 and the bridge.

“This is clearly what has happened and we thank Auckland motorists for the way they have responded to our call,” says Brett Gliddon.

Vehicles travelling southbound on Upper Harbour Drive (SH18) between 6:00AM and 10:00AM totalled 11,600, 53% or 4,000 more than the previous week.

Just over 11,000 vehicles travelled north on Upper Harbour Drive, 14% more than last week.

After 10:30 congestion began to ease across the Auckland network, but at 3:OOPM this afternoon traffic southbound across the bridge is queueing back to Esmonde Road.  

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