A major upgrade to the Saddle Road to improve its resilience and safety is one step closer following the completion of investigations and final agreement over how the project will be funded and delivered.
The upgrade will be 100% funded by the NZ Transport Agency and will be delivered by Tararua District Council, who own around 80% of the route. The expected cost is $4.5m.
Transport Agency planning and investment manager Delaney Myers says the Agency and Tararua District Council have completed investigations to determine the scope of the project. Detailed design is about to begin, with construction tenders being called for immediately afterwards. Manawatu District Council and Palmerston North City Council are also partners in the project, which is expected to be completed in the 2014/15 financial year.
Blair King, Chief Executive Tararua District Council said he is pleased with the partnership.
"The relationship that has developed between Council and the Transport Agency is producing great results. We are excited about future benefits that will occur by continuing to operate in this manner.
"The upgrade of the Saddle Road is a significant infrastructure project for Tararua District Council and will provide a secure secondary route access, West-East – connecting services for all of the region's benefit."
Ms Myers says the work follows around $5m of repairs and improvements undertaken by the Transport Agency during and after the Manawatu Gorge closure. The work to repair the damage from the previous closure was recently finished and means the Saddle Road is already much better equipped to handle detoured traffic than it was when the gorge was closed.
"The closure of the Manawatu Gorge highlighted the importance of having a high quality alternative route to act as a lifeline for this region's community and local industry. While closures of the gorge are uncommon, when they do happen they are hugely disruptive. This upgrade will help to foster economic productivity and send a firm signal that Manawatu is open for business regardless of what Mother Nature has up her sleeve."
"We are delighted with the collaborative and professional approach of our local authority partners and look forward to working alongside them to deliver this critical project."