Gorge al­ter­na­tive short­list re­vealed

The Horowhenua Mail - - FRONT PAGE - MIRI SCHROETER

The po­ten­tial al­ter­na­tive routes to the Manawatu¯ Gorge have been whit­tled down to four op­tions, but they could take up to 7 years to com­plete.

On Wed­nes­day, the NZ Trans­port Agency re­vealed the four fron­trun­ners from the list of 13 al­ter­na­tive routes re­leased last month.

The four shortlisted routes are; an up­grade to the ex­ist­ing Sad­dle Rd, a new road north of the Sad­dle road, a new road south of the Sad­dle Rd and a new road south of the Manawatu¯ Gorge.

The cho­sen routes are ex­pected to cost be­tween $300 mil­lion and $550m and will take be­tween 5-7 years to com­plete.

State High­way 3 through the gorge has been closed since April when sev­eral slips fell and blocked the road. In July, the high­way, the main link be­tween Manawatu¯ and Hawke’s Bay, was closed in­def­i­nitely af­ter the hill­side was deemed too un­sta­ble.

At a pub­lic meet­ing last month, trans­port agency re­gional trans­port sys­tems man­ager Ross I’Anson said the aim was to have an al­ter­na­tive route com­plete within 3-4 years.

The cheap­est shortlisted op­tion is the 13.8 kilo­me­tre Sad­dle Rd up­grade, which is ex­pected to cost be­tween $300-$400m and take be­tween 5-6 years to com­plete.

The long­est of the four shortlisted op­tions, a 19.2km route south of the gorge, is the most ex­pen­sive and will take 6-7 years to com­plete at a cost of $450-550m.

Maps re­leased by the agency show­ing the al­ter­na­tive routes de­pict route ‘‘cor­ri­dors’’ about 300 me­tres wide, I’Anson said. The ex­act route would then fall some­where in­side that space.

I’Anson said the agency now bet­ter un­der­stood the com­plex­i­ties and the size of the project.

The new time­frames were con­ser­va­tive, so he was con­fi­dent the cho­sen route would be com­pleted within its ex­pected time­frame.

A top pre­ferred op­tion would be cho­sen by De­cem­ber.

All op­tions through the gorge had been ruled out, he said.

A full tun­nel through the gorge could have cost up to $2.2 bil­lion and a viaduct could have cost up to $1.4b.

‘‘No mat­ter what we do in the gorge it will not be re­silient.’’

The agency was mon­i­tor­ing the gorge and if the hill­side stopped mov­ing, it would con­sider open­ing it again, I’Anson said.

The agency doesn’t have a record of how many slips have come down since the gorge closed, but spokesman An­drew Knack­st­edt said about 27,000 cu­bic me­tres of ma­te­rial had fallen since April 24.

About 10,000cum has been taken out of the gorge and about 15,000cum of ma­te­rial is still on the road.

If the Sad­dle Rd up­grade is the fi­nal route cho­sen, it may be closed off at times, mean­ing mo­torists would have to take the Pahiatua Track, south of the gorge.

How­ever, most of the work would take place off the ex­ist­ing road, so it was hoped traf­fic would not be af­fected too much if it was cho­sen, I’Anson said.

A pub­lic meet­ing to dis­cuss the op­tions is be­ing held in Palmer­ston North this af­ter­noon, while fur­ther meet­ings in Woodville and Ash­hurst will be held on Thurs­day and Fri­day re­spec­tively.


State High­way 3 through Manawatu Gorge has been closed since April 2017.

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