The NZTA advises motorists that State Highway 3 through the Manawatu Gorge is likely to remain closed until at least Friday as contractors continue work on a large, unstable slip site.
Regional state highways manager David McGonigal said debris is continuing to fall, and in the interests of safety it was necessary to keep the gorge closed to enable contractors to stabilise the hillside.
“There’s still a sizeable amount of loose rock on the hillside and a number of large boulders that we need to shift before we can safely reopen the road.”
The NZTA have commissioned a geological assessment of the hillside.
Mr McGonigal said the safety of motorists is paramount, and the highway would remain closed until the debris was removed, a geological assessment was complete, and the NZTA was satisfied the hillside was stable.
Mr McGonigal said the NZTA appreciated the ongoing disruption the closure is causing to motorists.
“We share the frustrations of motorists and truckies, and we’re very conscious of how this may impact on tourists that are travelling for the Rugby World Cup 2011.
“The safety of motorists comes first, so reopening the road comes down to stabilising the slope, which is proving to be a challenge with the hillside still holding a lot of loose material.”
Mr McGonigal reiterated the NZTA’s gratitude to the contractors who had been working constantly onsite since the first slip occurred on 18 August.
“This is the biggest slip we’ve had since 2004, and the team from Higgins have been working tirelessly in difficult and potentially dangerous conditions.”
Mr McGonigal also thanked motorists for their ongoing patience, and the Tararua District Council for the use of the Pahiatua Track and the Saddle Road as alternative routes. Mr McGonigal says the NZTA was mindful these roads were facing wear and tear from the increased use during the closure, and would work closely with council to fund and carry out repairs.
For up to date information on highway closures, conditions or delays, visit www.highwayinfo.govt.nz(external link) or phone 0800 4 HIGHWAYS (0800 44 44 49).