Lower Hatea River Bridge under way

By Mike Barrington

Huge components of Whangarei's new bridge under construction over the Lower Hatea River have been unloaded from a freighter at Marsden Pt.

Their installation will be a major step in the bridge being completed on schedule and in use by July.

The two halves of the $29 million bridge's bascule (lifting platform) - each weighing 34 tonnes - and the two lower sections of the big J-beams that will form the bridge's distinctive hook-like profile arrived at the port from China this week.

The lower sections of the J-beams each weigh 31 tonnes and are 26m long. The upper sections of the J-beams will follow from China and two 9.5-tonne hydraulic rams that will lift and lower the bascule are also expected to arrive from Holland soon.

The bridge components were loaded on to a Tranzcarr Heavy Haulage truck towing long trailers. They are expected to be delivered to the bridge's construction site in Port Rd next week.

Whangarei District Council infrastructure and services manager Simon Weston said the hydraulic rams had a normal operating lift of 80 tonnes, but they would be able to raise the 400-tonne bascule because 140 tonnes of counterweight in the end of the J-beams would help gravity do some of the work.

"This month, the last bridge beams and pre-cast concrete deck sections will be installed on the bridge, along with hand rails and the concrete footpath on the Pohe Island side of bridge," he said.

"The Okara Dr roundabout will be completed and work will continue on the Pohe Island road, drainage works at the Riverside Dr roundabout, and electrical installations."

When the system is up and running the bridge will be closed - the bascule will be down - from 7.15-8.45am and between 4-5.30pm to ensure smooth traffic flows during peak hours.

Only about six vessels daily are expected to require the bascule to lift. Most boats without masts will be able to pass under the bridge in the 7.5m clearance between the average high tide and the underside of the bascule.

When the bascule is being raised, the situation will be similar to a railway crossing. On the bridge an alarm will sound, lights will flash and a barrier will drop to stop cars and pedestrians from going on to the bascule.

Signs on Riverside Dr, Port Rd and Okara Dr will warn drivers the bascule is lifting, giving them the option of using a different route or waiting five to six minutes for vessels to sail through and traffic to flow again.

- Northern Advocate

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