Whew, it works! New bridge opens, and closes

By Mike Barrington, Mike Dinsdale

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The new $32million bridge across Whangarei Harbour has passed its first major test, with the bascule (lifting platform) fully opening at its first attempt.

Whangarei District Council group manager infrastructure and services Simon Weston was delighted that the bascule opening operation went so smoothly without any problems yesterday.

After final work is completed early next month, the bridge will be formally opened on July 27.

However, yesterday's series of bascule openings showed the work was progressing well, Mr Weston said.

He said the bascule was first opened about 170mm before being lowered, then raised to increasing heights, then closed again, before being fully opened.

It took about three minutes to open fully and close again, but the longest period for waiting motorists would be the time it took for any boats to get through.

"It went brilliantly," Mr Weston said. "We were expecting to hear a bit of noise from the hydraulics but it was so silent."

He said yachties who had been locked into the Town Basin because the bridge was closed for 11 days, rather than the forecast six, had now been able to leave.

Plans for the bridge's formal opening were still being finalised.

Meanwhile, costs linked to a delay in fitting the bascule to the bridge have not boosted the new structure's over-budget price estimate.

Mr Weston said yesterday the bridge's $1.4million over-budget estimate was unaltered.

The estimated final cost of the bridge is $32million, with the Government providing $14.9million.

When he announced earlier this month that construction of the bridge was running $1.4million over budget, Mr Weston said the money could be recovered through the sale of land on the Port Rd side of the bridge which would be surplus to council requirements when construction was finished.

The council faced paying $993,000 of the $1.4million of the budget over-run, which included about $700,000 in construction costs that the council shared with contractors.

The delay in fitting the bascule after it was jacked into place last week was caused by the need to replace seals in hydraulic rams and a wait for grout to harden under bascule tracks.

Asked if there had been problems with Chinese steel used to build the bridge, Mr Weston said: "The only issues identified with the steel had to do with the some of the paintwork and this has been redone to our satisfaction by local contractors, at the cost of the supplier in China."

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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