The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) says work will start tomorrow (24 January) weather permitting, on the installation of a temporary portal extension at the Homer Tunnel on State Highway 94, as part of the agency’s efforts to improve safety for road users at a rock fall site in an area high above the western entrance of the tunnel.
NZTA Southland Area Manager Peter Robinson says the first of five 12-metre sections that make up the 60-metre long temporary portal are expected to be moved into position from tomorrow. Depending on weather conditions in the area, the temporary extension should be completed by mid February.
Each section of the temporary extension will be assembled in a car park area several hundred metres downhill from the western tunnel entrance.
Mr Robinson says to enable this work to be completed with the minimum of disruptions to road users, some 5pm closures of Milford Road, from the Hollyford turn-off, will be necessary. “We will give road users and tour operators as much advance notice of these as possible.
“Since mid-December, the road has been closed daily from 7pm to 7.30am because of rock fall risk in the area.”
The purpose of the temporary portal extension is to deflect away from the road scatter rock from the eroding rock above the western tunnel entrance.
Mr Robinson says work on fabricating the $1 to $1.5million temporary portal began just after Christmas.
“There isn’t a quick permanent fix to the current rock fall risk at the western entrance to the tunnel and it is likely to take time to find one.
“Until then, we have to look at ways to safely extend the opening hours of this important tourist route while the rock fall risk remains. This portal extension provides that as well as giving us an opportunity to work on the rocks above the entrance without putting road users at risk.”
The flexible modular design of the portal means it can be removed and erected again at this location or used elsewhere on the Milford Road, Mr Robinson says.