Highway freight starts moving between Hawke’s Bay and areas north of the region when State Highway 5 Napier-Taupō opens to limited-traffic convoys tomorrow – a month to the day after it was closed because of Cyclone Gabrielle.
But it’s a case of one door starting to open as another starts to close, with the opening of SH5 for piloted essential freight convoys between Napier and Taupō over the next four days followed by 10 days of daytime “essential maintenance” closures on critical southern east-west route Saddle Rd between Woodville and Ashhurst, starting next Monday.
While SH5 in and out of Hawke’s Bay remains closed to general traffic, national highways management agency Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency will facilitate one piloted convoy each way for limited-sized trucks starting tomorrow (Tuesday), leaving Taupō at 7am, and the first out of Hawke’s Bay leaving Napier at 4pm.
Start times and directions will alternate from day to day, with Napier departures at 7am on Wednesday and Friday.
Waka Kotahi says the convoys, with leading and following escort vehicles, are limited to freight vehicles with a critical need to access or leave Hawke’s Bay, and it expects the convoys to take two and a half to three hours between Eskdale and Taupō, a route which had 32 damaged sites, mainly between Eskdale and Te Pōhue.
It expects delays about the Mohaka River bridge between Te Pōhue and Te Haroto, with traffic management in place at the bridge, which has been a part of the Hawke’s Bay northern lifeline for 60 years and which during the open period for convoys will be permitted to carry just two trucks at any one time.
The road conditions will be re-assessed after each convoy, and Waka Kotahi warns convoys could be cancelled at short notice.
No announcement has been made about the highway’s use next week, nor in the future, other than that it is hoped it will be able to be used by the general public by the end of this month.
There is also no “definitive” timeline on restoring full east-west access on Taihape Rd, which is open between Hastings and Glenross Rd, Waiwhare, but the remainder of the road is open only to residents and essential services. Another 10 kilometres from Glenross Rd are estimated to be fully open by early next week.
Saddle Rd, the major temporary route since the State Highway 3 Manawatū Gorge closure six years ago, and pending the opening of new 11.5km replacement Te Ahu a Turanga-Manawatū Tararua Highway, will close for maintenance Monday to Friday from next Monday to March 31.
Works will take place Mondays to Thursdays from 9am-4pm and Fridays from 10am-4pm, with traffic advised to detour via the Pahiatua Track, but Saddle Rd will be open the weekend of March 25 - 26.
Meanwhile, Cyclone Gabrielle has caused some minimal damage on the route of the new highway, with Waka Kotahi saying repairs are needed on a section of the staging area at the site of the new Parahaki Bridge over the Manawatū River.
Hawke’s Bay Road Transport Committee chairman and regional councillor Martin Williams says the most urgent aspect of the roading network is to get access open, and is pleased with the progress on State Highway 5, although the re-opening of access between Napier and Wairoa on State Highway 2 is still thought to be two to three months away.
He said there are daily updates for members on the progress with the roads, but Waka Kotahi NZTA is also working at pace on the longer-term possibilities to build a more sustainable network for the future.