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Big rigs steer a dangerous and costly route through NPDC roads and bridges

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PUBLISHED: 26 AUG 2022

Big rigs steer a dangerous and costly route through NPDC roads and bridges

Truck and tractor drivers trying to save time by taking short cuts are costing ratepayers about $150,000 a year and making our roads dangerous for all of us.

Some of Taranaki’s iconic landmarks, such as the Urutī Tunnel and the Bertrand Road Bridge, which marked its 125th birthday this year, are being needlessly smashed up by drivers forcing oversized vehicles through them.

Some of the worst examples include:

The Bertrand Road Bridge, which was built in 1897 and rebuilt in 1927, was only ever made for cars and smaller vehicles, but regularly has large vehicles scraping their way through the bollards at either end and smashing up the woodwork on the sides and deck.

The 235-metre Urutī Tunnel, which was built in the 1920s, often has its support and bracing timbers shattered and girders bent by big vehicles.

“This sort of damage makes these roads dangerous for other drivers and costs ratepayers about $150k a year to fix. We’ve spent $60k alone fixing the Urutī Tunnel over the last two years. The repair work also holds up other traffic. And the really frustrating thing is that it’s all totally avoidable,” said NPDC Transport Manager Rui Leitao.

“We work with trucking companies to steer drivers to use navigation apps designed especially to take big vehicles over suitable roads, but too often we see them relying on standard GPS or just chancing a shortcut.

“We suspect some drivers have even climbed on top of their cabins to move height restriction signs at tunnel entrances and in 2014 a big truck actually got stuck in the Urutī Tunnel,” he says.

NPDC attempts to recover the costs, but too often the culprits are gone before the damage is reported or found by maintenance crews.

All our tunnels and bridges have signs ahead of them warning of size and weight limits.

FAST FACTS

  • NPDC maintains more than 1,300 km of roads, including 272 bridges and five tunnels.
  • This includes 963km of rural roads of which 169km is unsealed.
  • We spend about $7.5 million each year on maintaining all of these roads (about $3m on the rural network and $4.5m on the urban network).
  • About 80% of this expenditure attracts a 51% subsidy from Waka Kotahi/NZTA.
  • The NPDC road network doesn’t include State Highways, which are owned and maintained by Waka Kotahi.
  • Total spending on roads across our district is about $20m annually.
  • This figure includes $6m on our rural road network with about $1m going on unsealed roads.
  • Traffic counts show vehicles travel about 262 million kilometres on our roads each year.

Caption:

Damage like this to Bertrand Road Bridge (right) and Urutī Tunnel and other bridges and tunnels across the district, is costing ratepayers thousands every year.