The temporary bridge across the Waikato River at The Narrows may be open by Labour Weekend.
The NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) had estimated it would be the end of October before Airport Road or State Highway 21 would be open but today said it was on track to reopen the river crossing a week earlier.
“Excellent progress is being made to install a temporary, single-lane bailey bridge immediately downstream of the existing bridge,” said NZTA State Highway Manager Kaye Clark in a statement. “The foundations have been completed and the bridge is now fully assembled and ready to be transported to the site, where it will be
lifted into place next week.”
Clark says the 52 metre-long bailey bridge is one of the largest constructed in New Zealand for many years. The foundations required four concrete piles to be constructed down to 12 metres, with a concrete beam placed on top to provide the necessary support. Once the bridge is in place the timber deck will be installed and a coating of seal placed on top.
The NZTA is also widening the existing highway on both sides of the river to enable traffic to access the bailey bridge. New safety rails and additional street lighting are also being installed.
“The normal expectation for bailey bridge installation of this type for use by the travelling public is six to eight weeks. We are very pleased to be on target to achieve this in just four weeks, which for a bridge of this size is a huge credit for everyone involved in this project,” Clark said.
“Everyone involved in this project has been very mindful of the inconvenience that the closure of the Narrows
Bridge has caused motorists and nearby residents, and have collectively committed 100% to get the bailey
bridge installed and open as quickly as possible.”
In addition to preparing and installing the bailey bridge, work is also continuing to reinforce the river banks to protect the existing bridge from further erosion. Although river levels have dropped they are still too high to complete a full inspection of the banks.
“Divers have recently tried to carry out an inspection but the river currents were too strong and too dangerous to continue,” Clark said.
The existing bridge will reopen to one lane of traffic once the NZTA has confirmed there has been no further
erosion. The temporary bailey bridge will remain open until the Waikato River bank stabilisation work has been completed and the Narrows Bridge can be restored to full two-lane operation.
Clark expected that the existing Narrows Bridge may need to be closed for further short periods over the next few months to allow the repair work to be carried out. During these closures traffic will be reduced back to one lane over the bailey bridge, and controlled by traffic lights.
Overweight heavy vehicles will not be able to travel over either bridge and will need to use alternative routes
until the bank stabilisation work has been completed.
In the meantime, the closure of the Narrows Bridge continues to require travelers driving from the Tamahere side to Hamilton International Airport to take an alternative route. They are advised to allow about 30 more minutes for their journey, using the recommended route of SH3 or Ohaupo Road. Detour signs are in place.
Motorists heading to Hamilton International Airport from the south are advised to follow the detour signs, which start just south of Cambridge.