The NZ Transport Agency says the one-lane operation at the Manawatu Gorge continues to flow nicely, with drivers taking advantage of extended opening hours for two-way traffic while bridge reconstruction work ramps up around them.
The NZTA extended the night-time opening hours for two-way traffic from 7pm-7am to 6pm-8am late last week. The road is open to traffic from Woodville 24 hours, but motorists coming from Ashhurst still need to use the alternative routes.
"It was always going to be a challenge to have thousands of motorists sharing a very constrained area with a large construction site, and we're thrilled to see it fall into place so seamlessly," says NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal.
"The extended two way operation between 6pm and 8am has gone smoothly, and while the extended times were just a couple of hours, it means hundreds more vehicles can use the gorge than previously, especially commuters. That's a lot of money saved, a lot of time and petrol saved, and we're pleased that it's made the lives of people easier."
"Getting the right balance is the key. We want to get as many people through the gorge as possible, and we also want to rebuild the bridges quickly so we can reopen the gorge to two lanes, and we think we've struck the right balance."
Mr McGonigal praised the behaviour of motorists overall but noted the occasional driver was travelling too fast, causing safety concerns.
"We get the occasional vehicle travelling through the temporary road at speed, and that's simply not on. This is a construction area and we have workers onsite 24/7, and people must stick to the 30km/h speed limit to protect the very workers who are trying to get the gorge fully reopened . People also need to keep in mind that it's a temporary road, not a sealed highway, and as such it's not built to handle high speeds, and it will deteriorate if people travel too fast."
Meanwhile, the site has been a hive of construction activity, with the installation of safety netting and the rebuild of the bridges continuing to accelerate. The bridge work has largely focused on installing the piles, and seven piling holes have now been drilled at the Ashhurst end. The first abutment cage has also arrived and its installation will be completed next week.