Work has started on the Kuripapango Bridge, with stock trucks and pregnancies just some of the many issues facing Rangitīkei residents because of its partial closure.
"A lot of produce goes over that road, a lot of fertiliser comes from Napier across into Rangitīkei, a lot of wool, red meat and forestry can come back this way," said Hastings Deputy Mayor Tania Kerr.
"This is a key route not only for our primary produce but also for our tourism. And access - access for our Hawke's Bay people to get across to the central North Island."
The bridge sits on the only road between Hastings and Rangitīkei Districts.
It will spend the next three months closed during business hours as the Kuripapango Bridge undergoes strengthening work.
Until the end of May the bridge will be closed from 9am to 6pm on Mondays and Fridays, and from 7am to 6pm on Tuesdays, Wednesdays and Thursdays. It will be open to vehicles weighing under 22 tonnes such as cars, utes, trailers or empty trucks during the weekends and at night.
The bridge is currently able to take a weight of 44 tonnes. After strengthening the single lane, concrete and steel bridge will be able to carry 62 tonnes.
The work is part of an ongoing programme of bridge strengthening required by central government to support economic growth.
In Hastings District more than 80 bridges require attention.
"We've done about 30 per cent of them and we still have more to look at over a nine-year programme," Kerr said.
"It is about increasing the efficiency and effectiveness of our transport network.
"Essentially it means bigger trucks, carrying a bigger load.
"Technically it should mean fewer trucks on our road.
"It also makes it better for our primary industry: less trucks into each farm, less trucks in forestry, more weight in some of our dairy tankers."
Kerr said Rangitīkei residents were consulted over how to live with the bridge's limited hours, which runs until the end of May, with one voicing concern over a pregnant family member.
Alternative routes are more than 100km.
Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency picks up half of the cost of district councils' roading, with Hastings ratepayers forking out $10 million across seven years for its bridge programme.
Because the Kuripapango bridge is on a boundary, Rangitīkei District Council will share the council cost with Hastings District.
Hastings District Council bridge engineer Anu Ileperuma said the bridge's steel was being strengthened and its deck was being replaced.
"We are slightly widening it because most of the long trucks tend to hit the end of the bridge. So we are slightly widening it so the turning room is a lot better."
She said while the bridge could take some traffic while being upgraded, it could not also support all the scaffolding required to complete its strengthening, which is why the project would take three months.
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