Crumbling road drives new fears

By Laurel Stowell

The Whanganui River is eating into the road that leads to a popular summer swimming spot and residents are worried someone will come to harm on it.

The worst dropout, 11km from Wanganui on Papaiti Rd, is getting progressively worse. Its barrier has been moved three times, Pascale Merten said.

Further upriver there are at least three unmarked dropouts where a car could pull over on to what looks like solid ground and go over the edge and into the water.

At about 12km are "the bluffs" adjoining the Hoare property, with blind corners, barriers and one-lane sections.

In summer, swimmers flock to Mosquito Point, just upriver of the worst dropout. Many of them are young people.

The road is the main access to 40 households and is also popular with cyclists. It's used by roading contractors, stock trucks and a few logging trucks. Logging truck use is expected to intensify as forests mature.

Speeding makes the situation worse. Apart from a short stretch near the biggest dropout, vehicles can travel at 80 to 100km/h - and many do.

"We have had a lot of narrow misses, and that's with regular users," Jenny Jackson said.

One woman was run off the road at "the bluffs", where long and expensive repair work was needed 14 years ago. Rocks still slide on to the road after rain, and residents would like a 50km/h speed restriction.

Meeting a truck travelling at speed on a blind corner could be frightening, Mrs Jackson said.

The biggest and most obvious dropout has been worsening for years, and the road is down to one lane.

If the river eats in any further it will have to cut into an adjacent paddock.

Charles and Jenny Jackson would like the road signs governing traffic flows reversed, because they say cars driving in an upriver direction have better visibility than those heading the opposite way.

It is public safety that residents are concerned about.

"We don't expect a four-lane highway. We're rural folk. We just want a safe road."

They will be making a submission on the road to Wanganui District Council's annual plan, Melinda Hatherly-Jones said.

One thing they would like is regular inspections after flooding.

"We never know if a part of the road is underwashed, and if it's safe."

They also want warning signs and speed restrictions at "the bluffs" and assurances that further work will take place to keep the road safe.

- Wanganui Chronicle

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