Cries for action about accident hot spot
On a mid-December day, Tony Washbourn was driving a truck through Mangemangeroa Gorge in East Auckland. The out-oftowner says he took stock of the sweeping corner, wet road, the 80km/h sign and warning arrows. As he drove through the corner the back of his truck slid into a bollard then across the road into the side of the bridge.
Washbourn’s partner was injured in the accident and last month he appeared in the Manukau District Court. He was convicted of careless driving causing injury, but not disqualified from driving. He says the conviction was ‘‘a pragmatic thing to agree to as I have employees and a growing business to operate, so not losing my licence was a plus. Otherwise I would have been happy to fight on.‘‘
Washbourn believes there’s something fundamentally wrong with the bridge’s road design.
‘‘I’ve driven over one million miles in the United States in five years - semi-trailers in snow, ice, Hurricane Katrina, and tornadoes without incident. As soon as it happened my first thought was why?’’
He says during his court appearance, the Auckland Council acknowledged a drain frequently blocks, which has cut out a nearby driveway and underscored the roadway. A road engineer also told him the camber was wrong and the turn on to the bridge is too tight.
The bridge has long been a local talking point.
First constructed in the 1860s, and rebuilt in the 1880s and 1930s, the narrow concrete bridge spans Mangemangeroa Gorge.
One local says they’ve attended at least 10 accidents in halfa-dozen years and says ‘‘they all hit the bridge’’. Plastic orange fencing is currently cable-tied over two sizeable holes punched out by crashes.
The local, who did want to be named, believes there are a number of reasons why so many drivers hit the bridge, including surface water and the tight angle at both entry points. They say a ‘high crash area’ sign would be a feasible option.
‘‘Surely, something. Why does someone have to be killed before they do something about it? Signage is cheap compared to rebuilding a bridge.’’
Another neighbour has attended so many accidents they’ve purchased a set of highvisibility vests and cones. They believe the crashes are due to careless driving and human error. Others say the bridge was never designed to carry buses and trucks and they should all detour through Flat Bush and Sandstone Road.
Figures from Auckland Transport show that between the start of 2010 and end of 2015, there were six recorded crashes on or near the bridge. One resulted in serious injuries. Between the start of 2016 and May this year, 17 crashes had been reported 650m either side of the bridge. They were all either minor or noninjury incidents.