Next steps for Opawa Bridge replacement

The Opawa Bridge Replacement project, part of the Government’s Accelerated Regional Roading Programme announced by Prime Minister John Key and Transport Minister Simon Bridges in January 2016, has moved forward a step today.

The NZ Transport Agency has confirmed that it will go ahead with a new two-lane bridge after completing an investigation into options to replace the current Opawa Bridge. The investigation identified that the existing bridge was too narrow and unsuitable to meet current transport needs. The plans include keeping the existing bridge, which is a Heritage NZ Category 1 Heritage Place, so it can used by pedestrians and cyclists.

As part of its investigation, the Transport Agency assessed 13 separate options to replace the bridge. The investigation process included seeking community feedback on the proposed options. A report released today summarises over 170 items of feedback received from individuals, stakeholders, organisations, societies and interest groups.

NZ Transport Agency Regional Director Raewyn Bleakley says the level of engagement from the local community on the proposal was positive.

'Public engagement is important in informing any of the proposals we prepare. The feedback we received confirmed what the local community has been saying for some time – that the Opawa Bridge is inadequate in serving the needs of local residents and of state highway road users.'

As well as indicating support for a replacement of the Opawa Bridge, the engagement report reflects the call for a bypass which would allow heavy vehicles to detour around Blenheim.

'We note the community support expressed in the feedback for a bypass, but this does not change the need to replace the existing Opawa Bridge. It’s not a matter of a bypass or a bridge as both serve different purposes and needs. It’s important to replace the Opawa Bridge now because the local community uses the bridge to access central Blenheim from the north. The bridge is also an important link on State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch, particularly for freight,' Ms Bleakley says.

'A bypass remains a future option and will be considered, along with other state highway corridor improvements, as part of the separate investigation of State Highway 1 between Picton and Christchurch.'

Ms Bleakley says work on the Picton to Christchurch investigation is progressing.

'We have completed the first phase of our Picton to Christchurch investigations, which have identified several problems that we intend to explore further in the next phase of our investigations. Public engagement will be a feature of the next phase, a Programme Business Case, which will look at the identified problems on this route and develop potential options to address them, including the proposal for a bypass of Blenheim.'

The Transport Agency will now prepare to lodge consent applications for a new Opawa bridge.

'We will continue to work with key stakeholders, including the Marlborough District Council and potentially affected landowners, on the design of the new bridge.'

More information about the Opawa Bridge Replacement, including the Engagement Summary Report, is on the Transport Agency’s project website link)