The new bridge at the Manawatu Gorge are taking shape quickly, with the NZ Transport Agency remaining on track for a permanent re-opening of the Manawatu Gorge in early September.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the 60 metre long, three span bridge at the Woodville end is substantially complete. The work on the retaining wall at the Ashhurst end is progressing well and is on target to be completed and opened to traffic in early September, weather permitting.
"We had one of the country's biggest cranes on site to lift the bridge beams into place over the last few days. The crane has now left the worksite, and the bridges are looking more like bridges and less like a construction zone every day."
Work will continue in coming weeks on securing the joints for the bridge and progressing towards its completion.
"The bridge is taking shape before our eyes and the team are working at a great clip, so progress has been very encouraging. If the weather is kind to us over the next month we'll be on track to open the gorge permanently in time for the first days of spring."
"Building bridges of this size completely from scratch usually takes months if not years of preparation, then around six months for construction, so the team are doing a remarkable job compressing all that work into the space of three or four months."
Mr McGonigal said that heavy rain over the weekend did not deter the bridge crews, who have ramped up work since the temporary road was washed away two weeks ago.
"The crews got a bit of a soaking but the rain seems to drip right off them, the progress they've achieved since last week is quite superb given the bad weather we've had."
Mr McGonigal says contractors drilling bridge piles have encountered some very hard rock which has proven stubborn, and night crews have been on the job to keep the momentum up. This accelerated work programme has proven effective, with all construction targets met to date.
"We're reaching the twilight of this long closure, and motorists, residents and businesses who have been disrupted by this slip can finally look forward to life returning to normal soon."
Mr McGonigal says crews are continuing their ongoing maintenance and repairs of the alternative routes, and reminds motorists to observe the speed limits and to drive to the conditions at all times.