After almost a hundred years, the Awakino Tunnel on State Highway 3 is about to have vehicles drive through it for the final time.
Early next week traffic will be switched to a section of the new road which bypasses the single-lane tunnel over two bridges over the Awakino River.
Waka Kotahi Regional Manager Infrastructure Delivery Jo Wilton says this is a major milestone for both the project and the Awakino area.
“After almost a century journeys by road through the Awakino Gorge will be safer and more reliable thanks to this new stretch of SH3.”
Over the next week or two traffic may alternate between running through the tunnel or over the bridges as work continues to tie the new road in with the existing highway.
In June traffic is expected to be permanently switched to the new road over the bridges.
The project is still months away from full completion and traffic heading through the site will remain under traffic management with a reduced speed limit.
A small section at the western end of the new road will be surfaced with a thin covering of asphalt, known as a scrub coat. This part of the road is in shade and has not able to dry out enough to seal with the permanent surface. This section of road will have a reduced speed limit until the summer when the road can dry out fully and a permanent seal can be laid.
With traffic heading over the new section of road work will begin on replacing the old route of SH3 with a walkway leading from a new rest area by the eastern bridge over the Awakino River.
The landscaped walkway will include storyboards to tell the history of the area and the tunnel, preserving it as a landmark for future generations to enjoy.
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