Rai Saddle gets a nip and a tuck
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.