Long-awaited work to replace the ageing bridges over the Waitaki River at Kurow will begin early next month.
The work will cost $18.5 million and is part of the New Zealand Transport Agency's (NZTA) $1 billion programme of investment in Canterbury's transport network for 2012 to 2015.
The two new bridges crossing the Waitaki River between Kurow and Hakataramea will take about 18 months to build and will provide the community with a more secure route.
NZTA's southern regional director Jim Harland says the two ageing 132-year-old bridges have reached the end of their life.
"These single-lane bridges were opened in 1881 and with a combined length of 762 metres, were one of the largest wooden structures of their kind in New Zealand," he said.
"The predominantly timber structures have been deteriorating and are no longer suitable to serve the needs of the local community.
"They are vulnerable to closure during peak river flows and unable to carry over-sized agricultural machinery."
According to Mr Harland, the two new two-lane bridges, linking State Highway 82 with Kurow on the south bank and Hakataramea on the north bank, will provide a reliable alternative route to State Highway 1 for motorists to reach destinations north and south of the Waitaki River.
"The two new bridges will be built immediately downstream from the existing bridges and each will have a barrier-separated pathway for cyclists and pedestrians," he said.
"This is an important route which enables the local community to access services and for supplies to be distributed to the surrounding rural community and it also means the growing number of tourists and visitors heading inland through Lindis Pass or the Mackenzie Country can travel safely."
Contractor McConnell Dowell Constructors will be on site from early next month to begin construction of the bridges which are expected to open late 2014.