Crews are currently inspecting and assessing damage to the Pekatahi Bridge project on State Highway 2 after the severe weather event in the Whakatane district last week.
The one-way bridge between Awakeri and Taneatua was closed to traffic in early February to allow contractors to replace the deteriorating timber deck and remove the existing railway tracks.
The structure of the bridge appears to be unaffected, but the recent flood inundated the area where the wooden deck panels were being assembled and a portion of the wooden deck was washed away.
Transport Agency Bay of Plenty highway manager Niclas Johansson says the workers have only just been able to reach the site and the damage is significant.
“The investigation is still underway but we know so far the severe weather event has resulted in floodwaters sweeping away 40% of the decking timber that was about to be laid and the temporary scaffolding has been damaged beyond repair.
“The workers are currently using a crane to remove debris banked up around the bridge and are also preparing for even more rain, which is expected to hit from Wednesday.”
The project was expected to finish in early May but the bridge opening will be delayed while new decking is ordered and the replacement work is carried out.
“At this stage we can’t give an exact opening time but we expect the community and businesses might not be able to get back on this bridge again for some time. Once we know the extent of the damage we will have a better idea of when it might open,” Johansson says.
“We know the extra time the detour added to people’s journeys is frustrating but we will do everything we can to get the project back on track and completed as soon as possible.”
State Highway 2 also remains closed near Waimana Gorge and is unlikely to open before Easter. This gorge is closed because of extensive flooding damage and fallen trees. State Highway 2 is also closed at Edgecumbe.
People should continue to drive with extra care around the Whakatane district while work continues on the sites affected by flooding.
Anyone finding what they think is bridge decking should call 0800 44444929 (0800 4 Highways) or email PNCChighways@nzta.govt.nz.
Caption: Photo taken from the Awakeri end of the bridge the day after the rain stopped (7/04/2017).