The NZ Transport Agency has announced that it expects to reopen State Highway 3 through the Manawatu Gorge to one-way traffic tomorrow afternoon.
NZTA Palmerston North state highways manager David McGonigal says the construction of a temporary road is now complete, and the NZTA plans to open the road to motorists travelling from Woodville towards Ashhurst by 4pm tomorrow. Motorists travelling from Ashhurst to Woodville will still need to use the Saddle Road.
The road will remain a one way road on Thursday night. On Friday a decision will be made about whether to open it to two-way traffic at night.
Once the road is ready to be reopened at night to two way traffic, a 'seven till seven' operation is planned - that is, open solely to East-West traffic from 7am to 7pm, and open to two-way traffic from 7pm to 7am.
Mr McGonigal said the NZTA would monitor the one-way operation of the temporary road before making a decision on when it could be opened to two-way traffic at night.
Mr McGonigal stressed that while the opening of the temporary road was a tremendous milestone, the NZTA would remain watchful and monitor the road 24/7 to ensure it operated safely and smoothly. He says the status of the gorge is subject to change at short notice in the event of bad weather or the need for repairs, and motorists would need to keep a close eye on the NZTA’s electronic roadside variable message signs for the latest information.
Mr McGonigal said that while the NZTA was aiming to open the temporary road at 4pm tomorrow, the road would be opened earlier in the afternoon if possible. As such, it would be difficult to predict exactly when crews would be in a position to let the first cars through. An electronic sign at the Woodville end would be activated to inform motorists once the gorge was reopened.
Mr McGonigal advised motorists that while the gorge was a shorter, straighter route than the alternative routes, people should still expect some delays while the one lane operation is in force.
"It's great to be reopening the gorge, but there could still be some delays through the site as we get traffic through while allowing for the movement of construction vehicles.
"Our eye is steadfastly on the prize of getting the gorge fully open once again, and we have our bridge builders onsite slogging away to make this a reality.
"We have a responsibility to the people of Manawatu and beyond to get the road fully reopened, and so while getting traffic back through the gorge is a huge relief, the 24/7 work will not let up until the gorge is back at full capacity.”
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.