Gorge road could be closed for weeks

Kapiti Observer - - FRONT PAGE - STAFF RE­PORTER

The Manawatu Gorge road is closed af­ter slips blocked both lanes, with the cleanup ex­pected to take weeks.

The NZ Trans­port Agency first said both lanes were blocked af­ter one slip on State High­way 3 at 9.30pm on Mon­day.

The NZTA then posted on its Twit­ter and Face­book ac­counts on Tues­day af­ter­noon that there were mul­ti­ple slips and that the road would be closed un­til May 25.

How­ever, those posts were soon deleted and re­placed with ones only say­ing there were mul­ti­ple slips.

High­way man­ager Ross I’An­son said there were two slips, with one much big­ger than the other. The small slip, at the Ash­hurst end of the gorge, was about 200 cu­bic me­tres, he said. But the big­ger slip, at the Woodville end, was about 3500cu m.

While both slips were small in com­par­i­son to a 2011 slip that closed the road for a year, it would still take three weeks to make the road safe again, I’An­son said.

Geotech­ni­cal en­gi­neers and NZTA staff had done a pre­lim­i­nary as­sess­ment of the slips with a drone to make sure it was safe for work to start on clear­ing and sta­bil­is­ing, he said. More de­tailed anal­y­sis work took place yes­ter­day.

Mo­torists can use the Pahiatua Track and the Sad­dle Rd as al­ter­na­tive routes.

The high­way through the gorge has a his­tory of be­ing closed be­cause of slips, the most fa­mous be­ing two in 2011.

The road was closed from Au­gust 2011 un­til Au­gust 2012, at first open­ing to just one lane.

Slips con­tin­ued to plague the road, which only fully re­opened to two-way traf­fic in Novem­ber 2012.

Clear­ing all the slips cost NZTA more than $20 mil­lion, while busi­nesses in the area were also hit hard. A $2.2m gorge up­grade pro­gramme be­gan in Septem­ber 2015, in­clud­ing the in­stal­la­tion and re­pair of rock­fall net­ting and other pro­tec­tive mea­sures in the gorge.

The lat­est work, which started in Fe­bru­ary and was due to be com­pleted in April, fo­cused on clear­ing de­bris from the 2011 and 2012 slips to stop it reach­ing the road.

The main al­ter­na­tive routes, the Pahiatua Track and Sad­dle Rd, have also had their fair share of is­sues. The track, a main route be­tween Manawatu and Wairarapa, was fully blocked for a few days in early April af­ter Cy­clone Debbie.

SUP­PLIED/NZTA

About 3,500 cu­bic me­tres of earth is block­ing the Woodville end of State High­way 3 through the Manawatu Gorge.

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