The NZ Transport Agency says State Highway 11 past Lemon’s Hill will be closed to all traffic from Friday night until at least Tuesday morning because of forecast bad weather.
Metservice is forecasting heavy rainfall for the region on Saturday and Sunday which will make the road and slip area potentially unsafe for motorists. A geotechnical engineer will assess the slip on Monday afternoon for a possible re-opening of the road at limited times on Tuesday, says Northland System Manager Jacqui Hori-Hoult.
“We appreciate that school holidays end at the weekend and that more people will want to use State Highway 11 next week rather than go via the detour route, but we won’t put the safety of our crews and motorists at risk,“ says Ms Hori-Hoult.
“It’s better that we provide certainty now about the road being closed until Tuesday morning so people won’t be disappointed or inconvenienced. It’s better they know now and can plan their journeys, allowing the extra time that the detour requires.”
Far North District Council councillor Kelly Stratford says the council has asked the Transport Agency for more road openings when it is safe to do so.
“Our communities appreciate the road being opened to allow locals to get to work and especially next week when school starts. The extra daily travel has been a financial strain on some families,” says Ms Stratford.
Hundreds of motorists have taken advantage of the limited opening times this week – the first time the road’s been open since the big slip came down on February 13. The slip is checked each day before vehicles travel under stop/go control in each direction between 7:30 and 8:30am and again between 4:30 and 6pm.
Ms Hori-Hoult says those opening times will continue next week from Tuesday, depending on the weather.
“We have listened to feedback from motorists that this week’s road closure points required vehicles to queue on a slope which wasn’t ideal for vehicles with manual transmission. So we’ve moved our closure points back a bit further, meaning a couple of extra minutes of travel in each direction through the work site,” says Ms Hori-Hoult.
The Transport Agency advises that for everyone’s safety, please drive to the conditions. When passing through the site please travel at the temporary speed of no more than 30 km/h and refrain from slowing down to look at the site.
Ms Hori-Hoult says two weeks of fine weather have allowed crews to make good progress on clearing the slip.
“We have removed about half of the unstable material from the hillside, but in recent days we’ve uncovered a new area of instability. So we’re proceeding with caution, but making good progress to the point where we may soon be able to start working at night to speed up the job.
The detour route when SH11 is closed is via SH1, SH10 and SH11 (Pakaraka and Puketona Junction) and motorists are advised to allow an extra 30 minutes for their journey.
Sign up at www.nzta.govt.nz/lemons-hill to receive an email update on slip clearing progress and details of how and when the road will be reopened. Or go to www.journeys.nzta.govt.nz/sh11(external link)