The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is on track to reopen the Waikato River Crossing at The Narrows on State Highway 21 (Airport Road) just south of Hamilton by Labour weekend.
NZTA State Highway Manager Kaye Clark says, “Excellent progress is being made to install a temporary single-lane bailey bridge immediately downstream of the existing bridge. The foundations have been completed and the bridge is now fully assembled and ready to be transported to the site, where it will be lifted into place next week”.
Mrs Clark says the 52 metre-long bailey bridge is one of the largest constructed in New Zealand for many years. The foundations required four concrete piles to be constructed down to 12 metres, with a concrete beam placed on top to provide the necessary support. Once the bridge is in place the timber deck will be installed and a coating of seal placed on top.
The NZTA is also widening the existing highway on both sides of the river to enable traffic to access the bailey bridge. New safety rails and additional street lighting are also being installed.
Mrs Clark says, “The normal expectation for bailey bridge installation of this type for use by the travelling public is six to eight weeks. We are very pleased to be on target to achieve this in just four weeks, which for a bridge of this size is a huge credit for everyone involved in this project.”
“Everyone involved in this project has been very mindful of the inconvenience that the closure of the Narrows Bridge has caused motorists and nearby residents, and have collectively committed 100% to get the bailey bridge installed and open as quickly as possible.”
In addition to preparing and installing the bailey bridge, work is also continuing to reinforce the river banks to protect the existing bridge from further erosion. Although river levels have dropped they are still too high to complete a full inspection of the banks.
Mrs Clark says, “Divers have recently tried to carry out an inspection but the river currents were too strong and too dangerous to continue.”
The existing bridge will reopen to one lane of traffic once the NZTA has confirmed there has been no further erosion. The temporary bailey bridge will remain open until the Waikato River bank stabilisation work has been completed and the Narrows Bridge can be restored to full two-lane operation.
Mrs Clark expects that the existing Narrows Bridge may need to be closed for further short periods over the next few months to allow the repair work to be carried out. During these closures traffic will be reduced back to one lane over the bailey bridge, and controlled by traffic lights.
Overweight heavy vehicles will not be able to travel over either bridge and will need to use alternative routes until the bank stabilisation works have been fully completed.
In the meantime, the closure of the Narrows Bridge will require some travelers to Hamilton International Airport to take an alternative route. People travelling to Hamilton International Airport on SH21 from the Tamahere side of the city are advised to allow approximately 30 additional minutes for their journey. The recommended route to and from the airport during the Narrows Bridge closure is via SH3 (Ohaupo Road). Detour signs are in place.
Motorists heading to Hamilton International Airport from the south are advised to follow the detour signs, which start just south of Cambridge.