The temporary diversion route will now open 24 hours a day, seven days a week restoring full access through the gorge 4 weeks after a series of large slips closed SH2 near Gisborne, says the NZTA.
Bay of Plenty state highway manager Brett Gliddon said the slip face remains relatively stable and with the bad weather clearing the NZTA have decided to open the temporary road to traffic all day, every day.
“We have been monitoring the temporary road and the slip face with the heavy rain and wind conditions over the last few days, we are pleased to say that everything remains intact and although the slip face remains active, we have sufficient safety measures in place to have the temporary road open all the time”.
Mr Gliddon says lighting will be set up to provide drivers with visibility at night and there will be workers on site to monitor traffic using the temporary road and the slip face.
“We will have lights around the road to provide sufficient visibility for those vehicles using the road at night time and we will also have staff after hours to ensure things operate as planned as we still have an active slip face so we are asking drivers to take extra caution when driving through the temporary road”.
These new opening hours will provide additional relief to transport companies and businesses that operate at night or early in the morning.
“We understand what this 24 hour opening means to those businesses that are affected by the closure of State Highway 2,2; this is a step towards providing full access through the gorge so they can start to move back to business as usual”.
The current traffic management around the temporary diversion road will change from a stop go situation to traffic lights through a single lane access.
NZTA advises motorists to expect delays when using the temporary road and the possibility that the road may close if the slip face destabilises, or adverse weather impacts on the temporary road surface.
Meanwhile, work continues on getting the state highway fully reopened with excavation machines already starting to remove some of the 30,000 cubic metres of slip material from the middle of the slip face.
“We have now started to remove this bulk material as the slip face is stable enough for the heavy machines to get up the slope and haul it out”.
Mr Gliddon says contractors expect it will take three or four weeks weather dependent to extract this material because of its challenging location on the slip face.
“This material is literally hanging over the former state highway so the machines have to work up and around to cut into it which is a tricky operation in a challenging environment”.
Once the material has been removed from this slip location, the NZTA will focus on clearing the state highway of slip material, repairing it and then getting it reopened.
“We still have a lot of work to do and we certainly have sufficient resources to do it, but this is not an easy job as we never know what can happen at the slip face and we need to do things properly to ensure we do not create other issues that could destabilise the slip face again”.
The NZTA says it appreciates the ongoing understanding and support from motorists while they work to get permanent access full the gorge established.
“The patience shown by the majority of motorists and businesses has been overwhelming, they understand the challenges we face and know that we are doing everything possible to get state highway access through the gorge done quickly whilst making sure that we have their safety in mind”.
The NZTA recommends that motorists visit www.nzta.govt.nz/waioeka-gorge(external link) to check the conditions before planning their journey through this temporary road.