Rai Sad­dle gets a nip and a tuck

Nelson Mail - - NEWS - CARLY GOOCH

Road­works on the Rai Sad­dle are set to im­prove safety on a crash­prone sec­tion of State Highway 6.

A sec­tion of the sad­dle, north­east of Nel­son, is un­der con­struc­tion by con­trac­tors, Downer New Zealand, to mod­ify bends in the road and al­low for a more con­sis­tent speed.

NZ Trans­port Agency sys­tem man­ager Frank Porter said the $6.6 mil­lion earth­work project re­align­ing the curves started in Septem­ber 2016.

It was ex­pected to be com­pleted by July next year.

‘‘This will take this sec­tion of highway to a much higher safety rat­ing than it is cur­rently,’’ Porter said

He said the wind­ing na­ture of the road and the changes in speed limit were con­tribut­ing factors to crashes.

There had been ‘‘a num­ber of loss of con­trol crashes over the past few years, with a high pro­por­tion of crashes caus­ing in­jury’’.

Be­tween 2005 to 2015 there were 25 no­ti­fied crashes on the Rai Sad­dle, in­clud­ing five se­ri­ous crashes and 11 mi­nor in­jury crashes. No fa­tal­i­ties were re­ported. A se­ries of five curves with mostly 65kmh lim­its will be re­duced to four curves with the speed in­creased to be­tween 75kmh and 85 kmh on the straight­ened highway.

In­cluded in the up­grade is a four-me­tre sealed shoul­der on the highway from Nel­son to give more op­por­tu­ni­ties to pass slower ve­hi­cles.

A right-hand turn bay at the sum­mit of the sad­dle to al­low for safer turns into the forestry road will also be added, he said.

The Rai Sad­dle im­prove­ments are part of a big­ger plan by NZTA to cre­ate a safe road be­tween Blen­heim to Nel­son which would pos­si­bly in­clude the Whang­amoa Sad­dle, Porter said.

NZTA re­ports showed be­tween 2006 and 2016, 20 peo­ple lost their lives.

There were 93 peo­ple se­ri­ously in­jured in crashes along this sec­tion of SH6.

JOEL MAXWELL/STUFF

Pat Dougherty.

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