State Highway 1 through the Mangamuka Gorge closed to all traffic again at midnight on Sunday, after being opened to a single lane for light vehicles for three weeks over the Christmas holiday period, so repairs to huge slip damage done in July can resume.
"Waka Kotahi thanks all those who drove through the Gorge for travelling to the conditions and requirements of light vehicles. It shows the public are also helping us during this time," Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency Northland system manager Jacqui Hori- Hoult said.
"The repair work is not finished, so we have to close the road again to complete construction of the piling wall to support the road and make it safe for all road users.
"The drilling rig and other heavy machinery required for this work take up the full width of the road, so there's no room for vehicles to pass during this phase of works. Clearing the road to allow traffic through will take up too much of the work day, and simply delay completion of the repair. "Waka Kotahi understands the inconvenience to motorists of having to go via the SH10 detour route, which adds time and cost to the journey, but we believe getting on with a permanent fix is the most desirable solution," she added.
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Drill crews were back on the job yesterday, and would work double shifts (20 hours/day) as they did before Christmas to expedite repairs.
Before the Christmas break, 31 concrete piles were drilled into the rock face under the road, but 16 more were needed to ensure the long term safety and stability of the road.
"As long as the weather remains good, we expect the rest of the piling work to take about three weeks.
"We will then look at whether the road can be opened to some vehicles for a time during the day. We'll know more on that in a week or so," Hori-Hoult said.
"For now, we ask motorists and the local community to bear with us as we work as quickly as possible to complete the piling work. We will reopen the road in some form as soon as it's possible to do so."
At this stage it was planned to have the road restored to two lanes by mid-year, but it could be sooner, depending on the weather and the rate of progress.