The NZ Transport Agency will be widening one of the narrowest corners on the Rimutaka Hill Road, State Highway 2 between Wellington and the Wairarapa.
Located on the Wairarapa side of the Rimutaka Hill Road, the corner to be widened is approximately 4 kilometres below the summit on the Featherston side.
“This corner is one of the tighter sections of the Rimutaka Hill Road. Widening it will make safer for all road users, especially larger vehicles, says NZ Transport Agency Regional Performance Manager Mark Owen.
Starting from 20 March, the project is expected to take four weeks with two solid weeks of major earthworks, during which time the road will be down to one lane and traffic controlled by mobile traffic lights. The traffic light system can be adjusted to meet the changes in traffic flows, which helps reduce the delays for people using the route. The work is weather dependent so bad weather will prolong the time taken to complete the work.
“This is a major undertaking, both in terms of the physical works, and the management of traffic, particularly heavy vehicles such as logging trucks and wide loads,” says Mr Owen. “We’ve worked with representatives of the Road Transport Association and Heavy Haulage Association on the logistics of how to get large loads past the work site. We need to keep the highway open while the work is underway, but also give our crews enough room to work safely and efficiently.”
Motorists will have one lane to get past the work site with an additional one metre shoulder, which will allow larger trucks to pull longer trailers safely around the corner. “Operators and members are asked to be patient and considerate during earthworks that we have campaigned for,” says Road Transport Association Area Executive, Sandy Walker. “It’s definitely a case of ‘short term pain for long term gain’”.
While the project is underway, those moving over-dimension and wide loads will need to provide notification. Any applications for house movements will be assessed before their permit is issued.
Construction on the $250,000 project has been designed to get the work done as efficiently as possible with the least amount of disruption to those travelling over the Rimutaka Hill Road. “We’ll have crews working both during the day and at night to make the most of the more settled weather and minimise the disruption for people travelling over the Rimutaka Hill Road,” says Mr Owen. “We’re advising people to allow an extra 5-10 minutes or so for their journey, particularly during the morning and evening peak.”
The road will be widened by three metres at the narrowest point, and require the removal of 2700 cubic metres of soil and rock from the hillside. Once the earthworks are complete, crews can start constructing the new road surface. The final stage of the project is the repositioning of a new guardrail. During this last phase, stop/go traffic management will still be in place but motorists will be able to drive on the new road alignment.
The corner-widening project is one of a number of initiatives over recent years to improve safety for people travelling over the Rimutaka Hill Road, including the installation of roadside edge barriers to prevent drop-offs, a speed-activated electronic warning sign and signs that illuminate when a truck is approaching, and additional curve signage to alert drivers of the safe speeds to travel around curves.
In addition, construction is planned to begin in spring 2017 at a corner approximately 400 metres north, to install a new safety barrier and widen the road, providing more room for oncoming vehicles travelling around the corner. This project is expected to take approximately six weeks, depending on weather, and will require a full lane closure for the majority of the construction period.
“The Rimutaka Hill Road forms a critical part of State Highway 2. We will continue to maintain and improve the highway to keep it open and safe,” says Mr Owen.