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Widening option mooted for Motueka River bridge

October 15th, 2014
[by David Armstrong]

NZ Transport Agency is considering a new option for making the Motueka River bridge safer to use - adding about a metre to its width to serve for the next 20-30 years.

NZTA Central Operations Manager Mark Owen addressed the Motueka Community Board yesterday to discuss the agency's assessment and priorities for the bridge into the future.

This follows serious concerns expressed by the board at its June meeting (see our story here), which resulted in TDC and NZTA engineers assessing the bridge's state and future.

Mark's report said that although the bridge is 95 years old, there are quite a few around the country of this age which are narrower than today's standards and in similar condition.

"The bridge has been maintained through inspections and targeted maintenance. [It] has various relatively common defects which are being monitored and will be repaired as required to maintain a reasonable condition."

He said the cost of repairs in the next 10 years is expected to be "very modest compared to the cost of replacement". The remaining life is "in the order of 15 to 30 years", but bridge replacement based on current condition is not justified at present.

In terms of driver safety, although its narrowness causes problems with large trucks, "experience shows that driver behaviour adapts to the situation". Over the past five years there have been 17 minor and no injury recorded accidents.

A replacement bridge would cost about $25 million, about $10m for the bridge itself and $15m for issues around a new road alignment. This is too expensive for NZTA's present long-term plan budgets.

He said a replacement would need to be a 100-year investment, and then planning would also get mixed up with town road bypass issues and new locations and alignments.

However, engineers had told him recently that the bridge could possibly be widened "an extra metre or so", which could be a satisfactory temporary solution for 20 to 30 years while a new bridge could be planned.

Such a widening, with a cost estimate of $5m, would fit into NZTA's 2018 - 2021 planning cycle.

Several community board members said one problem that needed more urgent action was to realign the eastern approach (coming from Motueka) to make it less sharply angled and such that drivers could easily see ahead what other vehicles are on the bridge already when entering.


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