Temporary road through gorge passes first weather test


The NZ Transport Agency says the temporary road through the Manawatu Gorge has stood up well to its first big test from the weather this week.

Strong rain throughout the week has pounded the temporary road, but no closures have been required and the road remains in good condition, says Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal.

"Rain has the potential to damage unsealed roads, so with the lousy weather this week we kept a very close eye on the condition of the road, but aside from a few dirty tyres and mudguards, it's stood up really well."

Mr McGonigal says the NZTA were pleased to see motorists observing the speed limit and driving cautiously through the site.

The NZTA has also been closely monitoring the Manawatu River, which peaked at 2.5m above its mean water level on Wednesday night. Heavy river flows have the potential to erode the foundations for the temporary road, but despite the high water levels, no major erosion has been noted. Mr McGonigal reiterates that if the NZTA have any concerns about the structural integrity of the site, it will close the road immediately and redirect traffic to the alternative routes.

Meanwhile, construction is continuing to progress well, with 1800 square metres of safety netting now installed on the Woodville end of the slip site as a precaution to help contain loose debris. Around 700 square metres of the central face of the slip will be installed in the near future.

Mr McGonigal says 22 holes have now been drilled for the piles (bridge foundations) and the first of four abutments (the structures linking the bridge to the road) has been completed, with work on the second abutment to be progressed next week.

"We're really pleased to see work progressing so well, and while it's great to have the temporary road ticking over nicely, we won't be satisfied until the road is open to full capacity."

"We're very conscious that even with the temporary road in operation, the people of Ashhurst still have to put up with heavy traffic driving past their homes during the day, and we're eager to give them back their peace and quiet. We're also keenly aware that the gorge closure is continuing to affect passing trade through Woodville. Understandably these communities are very eager to see the gorge operating at 100% once again and so are we."

Mr McGonigal says the NZTA thank motorists and the public for their patience while the NZTA and its crews work to get the gorge back up and running to its full capacity.