Unfortunately, the latest geological assessment indicates that the closure can be expected to continue for at least another two months. The scale of the slip looks set to surpass the slips of 2004, however, the gorge is expected to remain viable long-term.
The NZTA has employed five different companies, including geological specialists, to help us find solutions to stop the hillside moving. I am pleased to report that some progress has been made in stabilising the hillside.
There has been heavy rain in the gorge over the last few days but as yet there has been no change to the slip face. We are being extra vigilant in monitoring the face, as it is likely some movement will occur as the rainfall above the gorge starts to find its way in.
Maintaining Saddle Hill and Pahiatua Track
Meanwhile, we appreciate that the alternative routes, Saddle Hill and Pahiatua Track, have taken a pounding so we've fully assumed the costs and upkeep of these roads. That means we can make sure they remain safe and viable and can handle the large volumes of traffic they are facing.
The NZTA road crews are on-call 24/7 and where possible will carry out repairs and upgrades at off-peak times such as evenings to limit disruption to motorists.
This week we are improving the signage and traffic management around Ashhurst and Woodville to improve traffic flow and reduce rat-running.
The Saddle Road detour leads motorists to Woodville, but some motorists have been 'rat running' on local roads, which are not intended as detour routes, and subsequently bypassing Woodville, affecting local businesses there. Today we put barriers and signage on these other roads to direct motorists to Woodville. We can't stop motorists from using these routes, but we're doing the best we can to encourage people to go through Woodville.
Thank you for your understanding
Closures of this extent only happen around once in a decade, but when they do happen, we understand they cause real disruption. We appreciate that people are frustrated about the length of this closure. Our priority is twofold: getting the highway reopened as soon as it's safe to do so, and keeping the alternative routes well maintained and safe in the meantime.
This is one of the longest and most frustrating closures on record and we're well aware that it's very disruptive for motorists and local communities. Thank you for your ongoing patience and understanding. We'd love to say for sure when it's going to open, but until we know that, we're committed to doing everything we can to ease the pain. Please keep an eye on our website www.nzta.govt.nz for the latest information on the closure. I will be sending out an update like this weekly - please feel free to pass it on to anyone you think would be interested.
Feel free to contact David McGonigal, State Highways Manager, NZTA on 06 953 6072 or John Jones, Principal Asset Manager, NZTA on 06 953 6075 or firstname.lastname@example.org with any queries and feedback.