The NZ Transport Agency says that steel strengthening work on the Beaumont Bridge, State Highway 8 across the South Island's Clutha River, is completed for this winter.
The work over the past two months was largely undertaken at nights, 7pm to 6am, and required partial closure of the bridge with up to 25 minute detours or hourly waits for drivers.
The Transport Agency’s Projects Teams Manager, Simon Underwood, thanked drivers and local people for their patience while this work occurred. There should be no more detours or delays at the bridge this year.
The next stage of strengthening – the third and final stage – will occur in 2016, likely to be late summer/ early autumn.
The strengthening work on the Beaumont Bridge was in conjunction with other bridge works to enable High Productivity Motor Vehicles (HPMVs*), ie heavier weight-carrying capability freight trucks, to operate on major highway routes in the South Island. The industry is moving towards having more of these vehicles servicing the country.
“The aim is to improve the effectiveness of the highway network, enabling fewer trucks to carry equivalent amounts of freight,” said Simon Underwood.
Seven bridges are being strengthened in Otago in order to open up key South Island highway routes for use by these larger capacity trucks. “Heavier trucks carrying larger loads need stronger bridges.”
Scaffolding to remain: Scaffolding will remain on the bridge permanently as structural monitoring of the historic 130-year-old structure continues, Mr Underwood says. ''For the past two years, the Transport Agency has been actively monitoring the deck and beams, and managing the bridge by traffic signals.”
New bridge on horizon: In the latest National Land Transport Programme 2015/18, investigations are planned to look at replacement options for the Beaumont Bridge. The Transport Agency aims to begin these investigations later this calendar year. The bridge could be replaced by 2021 for around $20 million.
*HPMVs are able to weigh up to 62 tonnes all up. The norm (Class 1) is 44 tonnes.