Fresh call for quality bridges

A renewed call for the construction of better bridges on several key Otago highways is among the many amendments to be considered at the penultimate meeting of the Otago Regional Council's transport committee tomorrow.

The ORC committee is scheduled to finalise its regional transport strategy, which will outline spending priorities for Otago's transport programmes, ahead of its presentation to regional councillors next week.

Several amendments have been made to the draft strategy as a result of consultations with about 14 submitters at a public hearing on July 14, and consideration of about 55 written submissions.

While the strategy outlines transport priorities from a regional perspective, the final funding decision is made by the Ministry of Transport in association with the New Zealand Transport Agency.

The strategy has recently been amended to cater for "options" to investigate widening the Omakau bridge across the Manuherikia River - one of several improvement projects proposed by the strategy for ageing bridges.

As part of a funding priority to ensure the "efficient use of infrastructure and good connections, especially freight," the strategy outlines a desire to build bridges at several sites.

The construction of new two-lane bridges, capable of taking over-width vehicles, has been promoted for sites across the Clutha River at Beaumont and Clydevale, the Lindis River at Lindis Crossing, and the Kawerau River.

Beaumont man Simon Cook said many local residents had concerns about the dilapidated state of the one-lane bridge at Beaumont on State Highway 8 across the Clutha River.

"What's happening to it? There has been scaffolding up there for well over a year, but the bridge is knackered," Mr Cook said.

NZTA acting state highway manager Ian Duncan, of Dunedin, said there was an "ongoing" maintenance programme in place at Beaumont to ensure the safety of the bridge.

The programme involves "monitoring the deck and bridge structure," with the scaffolding in place to provide access for "regular checks".

"The safety of this bridge is a top priority for the NZTA," Mr Duncan said.

During the past five years, improvements made at the Beaumont bridge include the replacement of parts of the deck structure and the installation of traffic lights at either end of the span to help manage vehicle speeds, he said.

The bridge would "probably" need to be replaced within the next five to 10 years, Mr Duncan said.

The NZTA has recently commissioned design plans for a $19 million two-lane bridge on SH 6 across the Kawerau River, at Frankton, although the project is unlikely to begin until 2016 given other "high-priority" projects in Wellington and Auckland.

 

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