The NZ Transport Agency has reopened the Manawatu Gorge to one-way traffic from Woodville to Ashhurst, the first time the gorge has been open to traffic since August.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the first cars rolled through the new temporary road at around 4pm as planned.
"There's been smiling and waving - motorists and our crews are jubilant to see the road up and running after battling for so long to get to this point."
Mr McGonigal says the next priority would be getting two way traffic through at night. He said the NZTA would monitor traffic using the temporary road closely, and is expected two-way operation at night will be in place tomorrow night at the latest, weather and site conditions permitting.
Once overnight two-way traffic flow is in place, the 'seven till seven' operation times would be rigidly enforced, and people travelling from Ashhurst to Woodville outside those times would need to use the alternative routes.
Mr McGonigal says the NZTA would keep a watchful eye on how well the temporary road is functioning and stressed that the road was subject to closure if there were any operational or safety concerns. Drivers should observe signage and road markings at all times and remain aware of oncoming traffic on all routes. Motorists should allow extra time for delays as speed restrictions were in place and traffic would need to be stopped at times to allow construction vehicles through.
"We're asking people to stay alert, drive with extra caution, and if in doubt, follow the signs."
"This is a great breakthrough, and once it's flowing both ways at night, that'll get a large number of trucks through the gorge, restoring peaceful nights to the Ashhurst community while also paying economic dividends for the Manawatu region."
Crews were onsite working to rebuild the bridges to get the road fully reopened later this year.
The partial reopening of the gorge will be strictly subject to weather and onsite conditions. People are advised to check the NZTA’s Manawatu Gorge web page(external link), or email firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.