The NZ Transport Agency says a substantial programme of safety and strengthening work is ramping up along the alternate state highway route from Picton to Christchurch, via the Lewis Pass.

"While NZTA crews are working hard to clear slips generated by the November 14 earthquakes on the inland Mt Lyford road and on State Highway 1 south of Kaikoura, work is also hitting high gear on the Lewis Pass alternate highway," regional performance manager Pete Connors said.

An immediate focus was being put on upgrading State Highway 63 near St Arnaud in the weeks leading up to the very busy Christmas-New Year travel period.

"Crews will be resealing the road at 14 separate sites on the highway leading into Christmas, with repairs and road-widening happening at several sites.

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"This work is under way and will be completed before Christmas. Design work is also under way to widen the narrowest section of SH63 near Kawatiri Junction known as Howard Narrows."

From Picton to Waipara, about 24km of new chip sealing is planned over several different sites for this summer.

Contractors will also be installing a network of new safety and speed restriction signs along the route, with initial work already under way.

NZTA is also planning on widening the road at several critical points to help ensure that the larger number of cars and trucks using the alternate route can travel safely in both
directions.

"Additional slow vehicle bays are also planned to help faster moving traffic pass safely while slow vehicles pull over, and more safe rest areas for truck drivers are being made available all along the route.

"We're working closely with freight operators and councils to determine the best locations for these additional truck pull-over spots."

Some delays were inevitable while work was carried out, but contractors would do everything possible to minimise disruptions and provide as much notice as possible.

- Greymouth Star

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