Funding to construct a new bridge over the Ōpaoa River in Blenheim, has been confirmed by the NZ Transport Agency.
Investigations leading up to the project identified that the existing bridge, sometimes called the banana bridge, was too narrow and unsuitable for current transport needs. Public engagement on the proposal to build a new bridge was positive.
Transport Agency South Island Director of Regional Relationships Jim Harland says he is pleased to be able to provide certainty for the Marlborough community. “This project is important to people in Blenheim and those people living in the region who use the bridge to access central Blenheim. It is also an important link on State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch, particularly for freight.”
Mr Harland says the funding certainty will allow the project team to engage a contractor to undertake construction.
“We have allocated $21 million to the construction phase of the project, which will include landscaping and road realignment.
“This funding reflects the reality that construction costs have gone up in recent years, and is a significant investment in infrastructure for the local community.”
Mr Harland says the new bridge will make State Highway 1 more resilient to natural disasters and more secure as the strategic freight route between Picton and Christchurch. “The new bridge will offer greater structural resilience in the event of a natural disaster.”
He says during the construction phase, the team will continue to work with key stakeholders, affected landowners and leaseholders.
During engagement with the community over the bridge proposal, there was also significant support for a bypass which would allow heavy vehicles to detour around Blenheim. Mr Harland says it was possible a bypass would emerge as an option in future years, as the Transport Agency continued to assess the resilience and safety of SH1. “But that does not change the need to have a bridge over the Ōpaoa River which is fit for purpose so that commuters can access the central township.”
The Transport Agency has also confirmed that the existing Ōpawa Bridge, a Heritage NZ Category 1 Heritage Place, will be retained for pedestrians and cyclists.
Mr Harland says once a contractor is engaged, a start date for construction will be finalised. Construction will take about 18 months.
Project page for this new bridge: www.nzta.govt.nz/opawa-bridge-replacement