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New route chosen for SH3, to replace Manawatu Gorge

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News from NZTA
The NZ Transport Agency has selected a preferred option for a new State Highway 3 route to replace the closed Manawatū Gorge, connecting the Manawatū, Tararua District, Hawke’s Bay and northern Wairarapa regions.

The preferred option selected is Option 3 of the four shortlisted options, which runs from near the Te Apiti carpark western entry of the closed Manawatū Gorge, cross the Ruahine Ranges north of the Gorge, before emerging at Woodville.

NZ Transport Agency Director Regional Relationships Emma Speight says after a thorough investigation and extensive consultation, Option 3 emerged as the safest and most resilient route that best balances the combined needs of the communities, businesses and road users who will utilise it.

“Everybody understands just how important a replacement for the Gorge is. It will re-establish a key strategic transport and freight link that supports the needs of the people and economies of Central New Zealand,” Ms Speight says.

“Alongside this, the Transport Agency has committed to advancing investigations for a Regional Freight Ring Road, including a second road bridge across the Manawatū River, which stakeholders across the region see as a critical package to unlocking regional economic development opportunities.”

The Detailed Business Case process will begin immediately, covering a ten year programme of work, targeted for completion at the same time of the replacement route for the Manawatū Gorge.

Horizons Regional Council Chairman Bruce Gordon says that progressing a Regional Freight Ring Road in parallel with the Manawatū Gorge replacement route would be a significant step forward for the region.

“It would connect key freight hubs and bring significant improvements to freight and passenger vehicle movements through the Central North Island hub of Manawatū, improving travel times and lowering costs. This better positions the region to attract investment in logistics, manufacturing and processing, which is critical for the region’s future growth and prosperity,” Mr Gordon says.

The inclusion of a second bridge over the Manawatū River would assist in building the region’s resilience, provide a safer and more effective connection between some of the region’s key industrial areas, and remove heavy trucks from Palmerston North’s city centre.

Palmerston North City Council Mayor Grant Smith says engagement with regional stakeholders to reach a solution that achieves wider strategic objectives for both the region and the country as a whole was important.

“It is important for unlocking future regional economic development that the new State Highway 3 link offers connectivity and alignment to a proposed Regional Freight Ring Road and a new bridge. We are pleased this package of work achieves this,” Mr Smith says.

“It is a great example of central and local government collaboration to optimise public investment in infrastructure for the long term, and reflects the impact of the new Government Policy Statement on Transport, which requires regional economic development considerations to be taken into account.”

Tararua District Mayor Tracey Collis says that this outcome has strong support from a range of local authorities and industry representatives.

“The ongoing instability of the Gorge, which ultimately led to its closure in April 2017, has caused huge disruption for the region. The replacement route has been a matter of priority for the local councils and mayors and its pleasing to have worked so constructively with the Transport Agency to reach a decision that addresses both the immediate issue and the longer term strategic issues for the Tararua District and the wider region,” Ms Collis says.

A detailed business case on the new SH3 route will be finalised over the next few weeks. The project team will then seek resource consents with construction planned to begin in 2020, with the new road completed by 2024.

Option 3 will have an average incline gradient of 5.8%, with a maximum of 8% (in comparison, the current main alternative route, the Saddle Road, has a maximum gradient of 16%).

Travel time is estimated to be 13 minutes for general traffic (compared to an average 16.7 minutes that it took to travel the Manawatū Gorge).

News from Palmerston North City Council
Palmerston North City Council welcomes the resolution reached on a replacement for the Manawatū Gorge Road, which includes a commitment by central government to progressing the long-planned Regional Ring Road package of works.

The preferred option selected by NZ Transport Agency (NZTA) is Option 3 of the four shortlisted options, which runs from near the Te Apiti carpark western entry of the closed Manawatū Gorge, across the Ruahine Ranges north of the Gorge, before emerging at Woodville. Alongside this, NZTA has committed to advancing work on the Regional Ring Road, including a second bridge across the Manawatū River.

Mayor Grant Smith says that as well as delivering certainty and relief to road users affected by the closure of the existing closed Gorge road, the commitment to progressing the Regional Ring Road in parallel is a significant step forward for both this city and the entire region.

“The Regional Ring Road will connect key freight hubs and bring significant improvements to freight and passenger vehicle movements through the central North Island hub of Manawatū, improving travel times and lowering costs. This better positions the region to attract investment in logistics, manufacturing and processing, which is critical for the region’s future growth and prosperity.

“As well as unlocking regional economic development opportunities, the inclusion of a second bridge over the Manawatū River will assist in building the region’s resilience. For Palmerston North, it will provide a safer and more effective connection between some of the region’s key industrial areas, and remove heavy trucks from our city centre.

“We are delighted that our tenacity, along with the leadership of other Councils across the central North Island, in advocating the importance of the Regional Ring Road has led to this outcome as part of the overall Gorge solution,” says Mayor Smith.

The Detailed Business Case process for the Regional Ring Road will begin immediately, covering a ten year programme of work, targeted for completion at the same time as the replacement route for the Manawatū Gorge. This will ensure connectivity between the new SH3 Gorge route and the Regional Ring Road, optimising the investment.

“The extensive central and local government engagement that has contributed to the decision announced today reflects the impact of the new Government Policy Statement on Transport, which requires regional economic development considerations to be taken into account,” says Mayor Smith.