Dannevirke: Bridge 'an accident waiting to happen'

By Christine McKay -
1 comment
Traffic makes its way onto Whakaruatapu Bridge north of Dannevirke. Photo/Supplied
Traffic makes its way onto Whakaruatapu Bridge north of Dannevirke. Photo/Supplied

Makotuku woman Jenny Kells fears someone will be killed before the New Zealand Transport Agency (NZTA) spends money to replace Whakaruatapu Bridge, north of Dannevirke.

And Tararua district mayor Roly Ellis agrees.

"The bridge is an accident just waiting to happen," he said.

But Mrs Kells, a Garfield Rd farmer, is determined to hold NZTA to their commitment to replace the dangerous bridge on State Highway 2, known locally as the skinny bridge.

"We're not going to park our tractors on the bridge, that would just get us off-side with truckies," she said. "But I'm getting a petition going around the district because we've got to do something or someone is going to be killed on that bridge."

Mrs Kells said she found herself on the bridge along with a Fonterra tanker just days ago and, like so many other motorists, was terrified.

"It was scary," she said. "I couldn't wait forever to cross because I would have held up traffic. But if you sit there and watch the traffic you'd be surprised how many near misses and scared motorists you see.

"This work has been in the pipeline for at least 16 years and keeps going up and down the list of priorities. This bridge is very dangerous and is a disgrace to still have something such as this on a busy road. We shouldn't have to wait for someone to get killed before NZTA acts."

After an announcement in 2012 that $185 million would be spent on local roads, Tararua district mayor Roly Ellis isn't happy the $6 million Whakaruatapu Bridge replacement has been scuppered because there's no money left in the NZTA's coffers for the work.

"I'm sick to death of this," Mr Ellis said. "This (trying to get funding) has been going on forever. It's absolutely ridiculous. We've talked about this project for years and now it's been put back because NZTA have a funding shortfall of $300 million across New Zealand."

Mr Ellis said 12 months ago the skinny bridge was at number four out of 10 projects.

"Now it's been taken away from us," he said. "You can imagine my feelings on this as we (council) fought to get the project high on the list of priorities.

"We have a real problem."

And Mrs Kells agrees.

"I'll be so angry if they (NZTA) upgrade the Oringi overbridge first," she said. "If that were to crash down then vehicles will only fall through to the railway line, but a crash on the Whakaruatapu Bridge and you could end up in the river."

Mr Ellis said he's written a strongly worded letter to Wairarapa MP John Hayes as well as transport minister Gerry Brownlee and NZTA regional director Jenny Chetwynd.

"We'd been promised this work would start after Christmas, but it seems NZTA is giving preference to the roads of national significance programme," he said.

Trevor Bennett, a former roading engineer for the Tararua District Council said residents shouldn't have to wait for a fatality to get action on the bridge.

"The widening of the hill a few years ago has only made the situation worse as it's increased the speed of traffic approaching the bridge," he said.

Mr Bennett said he was urging people to support the council as it tries to get action from NZTA.

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