In a little under two weeks, the State Highway 25A Kopu-to-Hikuai road will reopen, reuniting families, workmates, school chums and holidaymakers with one of the jewels of New Zealand’s playgrounds.
The route experienced a massive washout in January this year that destroyed the road and cut the Coromandel in half.
The SH25A Kopu-to-Hikuai road was washed out near its summit during heavy rain on the Coromandel Peninsula at the end of January. Photo / Philip Hart
Anyone travelling from east to west, or vice versa, had to take a detour lasting hours around the top of the Coromandel Peninsula or through the Karangahake Gorge and Waihī, with both those routes also vulnerable to the many extraordinary weather events of 2023 with frequent closures.
A bridge was selected in June to replace the stretch of road washed away in the heavy rains, based on the ability to build back better in the shortest time. It was considered the safest and most resilient option and allowed work to continue through the winter months, with a view to the road reopening in March 2024.
Stabilising work on the slip face and stormwater channel laying last week. Photo / Waka Kotahi
Bridge engineer Alison Craigie, who is working on the project with Fulton Hogan, told RNZ at the end of last month she is amazed at how quickly the work has progressed.
Bridge engineer Alison Craigie at the construction site in November. Photo / Waka Kotahi
“Sometimes we do need to take a step back and think about the fact that three months ago we were still working on the piles and now we are almost there,” she said. “The finish line is in sight.”
Last week, workers finished connecting the bridge’s concrete barriers and installed railings, while work to the bridge approaches, including installing side barriers, drainage and hydroseeding (spraying plant seeds) on the slopes alongside the road continued.
Barrier rails installed on the bridge as the structure nears completion. Photo / Waka Kotahi
The slip face has been stabilised with soil nails, mesh and kerbs, while stormwater channels and transition side barriers have been installed this past week.
With a few days of dry weather, the chip seal will be laid over the approaches to the bridge and across the bridge deck and final stormwater and barrier work will be finished ahead of the December 20 opening day.
An asphalt layer is laid on the bridge deck as the finish line is in sight. Photo / Waka Kotahi
“We’ve got an amazing team on the ground doing the work and we’ve all had the same goal from the start to get these communities reconnected,” Craigie said. “Everyone has been working so hard to make that happen - we’ve been putting night shifts on as required to make sure we get over the line.”
Craigie said the whole industry understood how important it was to get the road open, telling RNZ that it was needed for business, to reconnect families and to get kids back to school.
“It’s a lot more than just baches,” she said. “It’s people’s livelihoods and it’s just massive. It’s going to mean so much to everyone to get this bridge open.”
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