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Source: New Zealand Transport Agency

The tireless efforts of contractors on the ground at the site of a major collapse on State Highway 35 near Motu River Bridge (between Ōpōtiki and Te Kaha), will see a temporary single lane track opened to traffic this evening.

Work continues at the site of a major collapse on State Highway 35 near Motu River bridge

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency contractors have created a makeshift track to allow light vehicles through under a temporary speed limit. We are currently unable to open the track to heavy vehicles, but in exceptional circumstances trucks may be escorted through individually. Such circumstances include emergency vehicles and businesses providing essential supplies and services. To arrange a heavy vehicle crossing time please give 24 hours’ notice and contact Higgins Contractors in Rotorua.

The temporary single lane track will open from 5pm tonight until 7am Monday. During Monday the track will be closed to enable construction work to continue, which means the temporary track will not be passable during the day.  It will reopen Monday from 5pm to 8pm and for restricted timeframes over the following days providing it’s safe to do so. There is heavy rain forecast for Monday night through into Tuesday, which poses a risk that will need to be assessed before the track can be reopened.

SH35 has been closed near Motu River bridge since Wednesday night (20 July), following severe cracking and a section of the eastbound lane falling into the river.

“Our contractors have been working flat out – at all hours and in all weather – to do what they can to stabilise the river bank and create a safe temporary track to allow locals an opportunity to get through. A more permanent solution will take some time,” says National Emergency Response Manager Mark Owen.

The single lane track will be open to traffic during these timeframes (weather permitting):

  • Saturday 5pm to Monday 7am
  • Monday 5pm to 8pm

The safety of the temporary track will be reassessed on Tuesday.

“Waka Kotahi advises locals use these travel windows to get essential supplies for their whānau and businesses during this relatively settled weather period. It may not be possible to get through next week, depending on what the weather brings,” says Mr Owen.

Contractors and geotechnical specialists have been working first and foremost to ensure the safety of the site and stabilise the embankment, as well as investigating options for solutions. The extremely high river level and high velocity of the water makes this challenging.

“The S curve in the river is continuing to move north at a rate of around 10 metres a day. We are working hard to get rock protection along the river edge to prevent further deterioration of the road,” says Mr Owen.

The Bay of Plenty, and the East Coast in particular, have experienced significant rainfall, coastal surges and strong winds this year, all of which puts pressure on a roading network that is already more vulnerable due to unstable geology.

“We know how important this road is to communities on the East Coast – to access necessary services, such as food and healthcare, to get kids to school, to run businesses and to stay in touch with friends and whānau.”

With the rain forecast to return early next week, people living alongside SH35 are encouraged to use the next few days to prepare for bad weather and make sure they have everything they need to avoid having to travel if the weather gets rough.

Mr Owen encourages everyone to take care, allow additional time for their journeys and be patient.

“Safety is paramount. It is not possible yet to give a timeframe for when the road to be back to full functionality.

“We will only reopen the road when we are confident it is safe to do so, for both road users and our road workers. In the meantime we ask for patience and respect for our workers at the site. They’re doing everything they can to see this happen as soon as possible.”

We understand its challenging for people living and working along SH35 at the moment and we appreciate their resilience.

Work continues at the site of a major collapse on State Highway 35 near Motu River bridge