Major roadworks are set to start from the first week of September on the Rimutaka Hill Road, State Highway 2 between Wellington and the Wairarapa.
The first project is the construction of a reinforced concrete half bridge and the installation of a new safety barrier on a curve located on the Featherston side of the hill, approximately 3.5km north of the summit. Works are expected to take approximately 6-7 weeks, depending on weather.
“The existing barrier is frequently hit,” says Mr Owen. “The new road shoulder will be slightly wider (around 1m), than the existing shoulder, providing more clearance to the safety barrier and making the curve safer for road users, particularly heavy vehicles.”
The work will require the closure of one lane through the work site. Temporary concrete barriers will be installed along the work site to protect road users from the open excavation where road crews are working, and to keep everyone safe.
Crews will be working five days a week between 6am and 6pm. Stop/go traffic management will be in place day and night for the duration of the project. Traffic will be controlled by traffic signals featuring the latest technology to adapt to peak traffic flows. “The traffic signals are programmed to allow more vehicles through, to accommodate the morning and evening peak flows,” says Wellington Transport System Manager, Mark Owen. “We’ll also have project staff on site 24/7 to monitor the traffic flow and ensure the safe passage of road users, including cyclists through the work site.” For traffic heading south from the Wairarapa towards Wellington, the passing lane just before the project site will also be closed throughout the duration of the construction.
“We’re advising people to allow an extra 10 minutes or so for their journey, particularly during the morning and evening peak. We understand this can be frustrating for people, but this is vital work which will improve the safety of the Rimutaka Hill Road.”
The reinforced concrete structure (the half bridge) that will form the platform on which the new road surface and barrier is placed, will be poured in sections. Each section will need time to cure or set. Work on the next stage can’t start until this curing process is complete, so there will be days when it appears no active work is being done. “A lot of the work will be done below the road surface so our crews won’t be visible when people are driving through the work site. It’s a complex project and our crews will be operating under challenging conditions on the side of the hill,” says Mr Owen.
Work is planned to start on Sunday 3 September and - as with all roadworks - is weather dependent. “High wind gusts, rain and snow can make working on the Rimutaka Hill Road very challenging, so if bad weather does strike we will have to defer work until conditions improve,” says Mr Owen.
Throughout the project over-dimension and wide loads will need to make contact with the project team to make prior arrangements for safe travel through the work site. “We are working with the Road Transport Association and Heavy Haulage Association, as well as house moving companies to accommodate loads as best we can. Companies can either contact our Palmerston North permitting office or work through the local RTA or HHA representative to determine when loads can be moved.”
After Labour Weekend work moves 400m north towards the summit to widen one of the narrowest corners on the Hill Road.
This project was originally scheduled to start in March but was delayed after additional approvals and land consents were sought.
The project is expected to take four weeks with two solid weeks of major earthworks, during which time the road will be down to one lane and traffic controlled by mobile traffic lights.
As with the construction of the half bridge and new barrier works, while both project are underway, those moving over-dimension and wide loads will need prior approval before travelling through the work sites, due the width constraints.
The road will be widened by three metres at the narrowest point, and require the removal of approximately 2700 cubic metres of soil and rock from the hillside. Once the earthworks are complete, crews can start constructing the new road surface. The final stage of the project is the repositioning of a new guardrail. During this last phase, stop/go traffic management will still be in place but motorists will be able to drive on the new road alignment.
As well as the two construction projects, spring sees the start of the annual resurfacing and maintenance programme, with resurfacing works planned for Muldoon’s Corner (south of the summit) and a number of other sections of highway road surface over the Rimutaka Hill Road. “Roadworks aren’t much fun when you are stuck in a queue but we have planned the work to minimise disruption to people,” says Mr Owen. “The Rimutaka Hill Road forms a critical part of State Highway 2. We will continue to maintain and improve the highway to keep it open and safe.”