More than 400 residents from Kurow and the Hakataramea Valley flocked to the second bridge opening across the Waitaki River on Saturday.
Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean opened the bridge alongside Waitaki mayor Gary Kircher, Waimate mayor Craig Rowley and the NZ Transport Agency’s southern regional director Jim Harland.
Kurow resident Trevor Appleby said it was an honour to be asked to drive the model T car – which he looks after – across the bridge.
“The old car I just look after; it’s owned by the museum, but it was great to drive it across with Renee Melton, whose brother used to own the car.”
Mr Appleby said it was great to finally have the new bridges in place.
“Although I wasn’t a big fan of them replacing the bridges because they have been made smaller and will likely cause flooding and there were other methods I felt would have been more successful, but I do acknowledge they needed to be replaced,”
The bridges mean it will be much easier for contractors to access the roads without having to go the long way to get their machinery across.
Mr Harland said the opening of the 206-metre long bridge heralded a new era in road transport for the Waitaki Valley.
“These new bridges not only provide the Kurow and Hakataramea communities with a secure road link across the Waitaki River to access employment and essential services but also support economic growth in the region.
“This is a key regional and freight route. These two new bridges are capable of carrying larger and heavier freight vehicles for the more efficient and safer movement of goods, as well as providing a safe and reliable alternative route if State Highway 1 is ever closed.”
Mr Harland said safety had been a priority with the project and it was great to see that both new bridges provided a barrier-separated pathway for cyclists and pedestrians, and the bridges would remain single laned until the timber bridges have been taken apart.
The two new two-lane bridges, which have been built on State Highway 82, replace two ageing 133-year-old single-lane timber bridges. The $20.1 million project is part of the Transport Agency’s $1 billion programme of investment in Canterbury’s transport network from 2012 to 2015.
By BRAYDEN LINDSAY
IT’S OFFICIAL: Waitaki District Council Mayor Gary Kircher, Waitaki MP Jacqui Dean, Transport Agency’s southern regional director Jim Harland and Waimate District Council Mayor Craig Rowley prepare to open the second bridge.