The NZ Transport Agency has confirmed plans to re-open State Highway 1 north of Kaikoura to traffic in December, restoring the coastal highway link from Picton to Christchurch in time for Christmas travel.
Detailed information about ‘what open looks like’ is being shared via a dedicated web page - www.nzta.govt.nz/p2c(external link). The page will be updated regularly as work progresses towards re-opening.
NZ Transport Agency Earthquake Recovery Manager Tim Crow says North Canterbury Transport Infrastructure Recovery (NCTIR) crews have been working hard under difficult conditions – including ongoing wet weather - to meet the target of re-opening the road in time for the holidays.
“It’s a huge job, but the work is progressing well. We’re re-opening SH1 as early as we safely can to provide better access to Kaikoura and for those communities along the coastal route. However, it’s important people understand that the full rebuild of the highway will not be completed in December and this work will continue well into 2018,” Mr Crow says.
When the road reopens there will be some unsealed surfaces, lane closures and stop/go traffic controls. The route will also need to be closed at night for several months as a safety precaution, and planned closures may also be needed at times to carry out high-impact work.Standard summer opening hours are expected to be between dawn and dusk but this will be confirmed before opening.
Mr Crow says any planned closures will be advertised in advance whenever possible.
“Residents along State Highway 1 have been particularly patient and understanding while work continues to reopen the transport corridor. We know that these communities and businesses, as well as holidaymakers, need to plan ahead for the summer season and we want to provide as much detailed information as possible now to help them make those plans.”
Mr Crow stressed that every wet weather day places pressure on the work programme and the ability to keep SH1 open could be affected by weather and seismic activity.
“Safety for road users on the reopened State Highway 1 is the top priority.”
Mr Crow says the average estimated travel time to drive between Picton and Christchurch on State Highway 1 when it re-opens in December is expected to be around 5 ½ hours under normal conditions. This is an hour longer than the same journey pre-earthquake, but around an hour faster than the current journey time using the alternate highway route via Lewis Pass, which remains a good option for travel.
Mr Crow says the Transport Agency will be urging drivers to check the latest conditions before they travel, and allow plenty of extra time when planning journeys so that they can get to their destination safely in case of delays.
“We also recommend taking regular breaks and stopping off to support the local communities along the route.”
The alternate Picton to Christchurch route (which goes via state highways 63, 6, 65 and 7 through Lewis Pass) remains a good and reliable option for travel around the top of the South Island, with journeys currently averaging around 6.5 hours under normal conditions. The Transport Agency is also continuing to upgrade this route.