Narrow bridges

Councilors call for action on narrow and broken bridges along the Taranaki coast

South Taranaki District Councilors Bryan Roach, Aaron Langton and Chris Young stand next to the Heimama Creek Bridge where one side was broken off in a recent car accident.

Catherine Groenestein / Stuff

South Taranaki District Councilors Bryan Roach, Aaron Langton and Chris Young stand next to the Heimama Creek Bridge where one side was broken off in a recent car accident.

Three South Taranaki District Councilors are calling on transport bosses to act urgently to widen a dozen narrow bridges along the Taranaki Coastal Highway.

Four bridges between Hāwera and Oakura suffered unrepaired damage from accidents, Councilor Bryan Roach said.

Waka Kotahi NZTA said inspections showed the bridges had no structural damage and would be repaired, but there were no plans to widen them.

“They’re playing with people’s lives on the coast,” Roach said.

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Bridges on the outskirts of Rahotu and Pungarehu each have one side broken by accidents, with road cones and warning signs in place for months.

At the Heimama Bridge, north of Opunake, broken barriers hang down one side after an accident several weeks ago.

And in Tataraimaka, north of Okato, the bridge over the Timaru has been damaged in recent weeks by a crash.

Roach said the bridges were too narrow.

“I wouldn’t mind if the NZTA, to make it safer, widen one bridge a year for the next 12 years, but they’re doing nothing at all, just sticking their heads in the sand with their eyes closed.”

Bryan Roach said this bridge near Rahotu had cones and signs warning motorists of the damage for months.

Catherine Groenestein / Stuff

Bryan Roach said this bridge near Rahotu had cones and signs warning motorists of the damage for months.

Another STDC adviser, Aaron Langton, said truck and bus drivers treat the bridges, which are officially two-way, as one-lane bridges, but people who don’t know about them don’t. give way if another vehicle is crossing.

“The big problem is that all these narrow bridges are an accident waiting to happen,” he said.

“The problem is fixing them, it’s ridiculous how long it takes.”

Langton said there were more cars on the roads in the mornings and evenings as people drove to work in New Plymouth.

“There is so much more traffic now, there are going to be more accidents.

“You don’t want to drive a bus full of kids over one of these bridges when someone’s coming the other way,” he said.

Aaron Langton stands next to another bridge that has been waiting for repairs for months.

Catherine Groenestein / Stuff

Aaron Langton stands next to another bridge that has been waiting for repairs for months.

Road user charges paid by heavy vehicles could be used to improve the highway, he said.

The trio were angered by the amount of money spent on projects such as Wellington’s Transmission Gully and on improving roads north of Auckland.

“It’s not about upgrades or anything [for SH45] in all future plans,” Councilor Chris Young said.

“You just have to look at the road from New Plymouth to Waitara and how long it took to do anything, how lucky are we?”

In a statement, Waka Kotahi regional maintenance and operations manager Jaclyn Hankin said there are no plans to widen any of the SH45 bridges between Hāwera and Oakura.

The agency was aware of vehicle damage to barriers on the bridges, she said.

“These bridges have all been inspected and there is no damage to the bridge structures. Barrier repairs are currently priced and will be scheduled as soon as possible. »

Waka Kotahi has an active bridge maintenance, reinforcement and replacement program, Hankin said.

Major works, including bridge upgrades, were to be prioritized under the National Land Transportation Program, which sets the agency’s priorities for the next three years.

“There are a number of important security projects across the country, and Waka Kotahi needs to prioritize the timing and funding available for these.”

Work is currently underway on the Waiaua Stream Bridge south of Opunake, where Waka Kotahi contractors are installing 1,600 tons of rock along the banks to repair damage caused by severe weather events in February.

The work should last 3 to 4 weeks.

In March, similar work was carried out at the Heimama Creek Bridge to repair and stabilize the creek banks near the bridge abutments.