Preparations are underway to remove the broken Te Reinga Bridge by setting it down into the river and dragging it up and out of the water.
The 100m long bridge upriver from Te Reinga Falls was severely compromised during flooding in early 2022 and closed to heavy traffic. It was then critically damaged in Cyclone Gabrielle. Its centre pier disappeared into the swollen river causing the bridge to sag alarmingly low between the remaining two piers.
The bridge was closed to all traffic leaving Ruakituri residents with a two-hour detour to get to Wairoa via Ohuka and Erepeti Roads.
Wairoa civil construction company Quality Roading and Services is managing the project to remove the existing bridge and install a temporary Bailey bridge. Specialist dive teams, demolition experts, piling and bridging contractors, and crane and tow truck operators are involved. Wairoa District Council is directing the project with guidance from WSP engineers.
Decommissioning the bridge involves weeks of site preparation before crews can carefully set it down and drag it away. “Each step has been designed to ensure we can carry out the project safely and in a way that also protects environment,” says QRS construction manager Mike Wilson.
Crews working on or near the water stay up to 15 metres away from the bridge depending on which side they are approaching. A safety net has been strung across the river downstream from the bridge to catch anything or anybody that might fall in. The spectacular 35m high Te Reinga Falls are just beyond the safety net.
QRS started preparing the site in March by removing the road surface and approaches at either end of the bridge, and grading and clearing the worksite.
This month, some of the bridge’s concrete will be removed to lighten its weight. To do this safely, a robotic digger and hi-reach demolition excavators will carry out the work.
After the controlled set-down of the bridge, tow trucks with steel cable winches will then tow the bridge deck up the bank and out of the river. Floating logs have already been secured under the bridge so that when the bridge is lowered it will settle onto the logs making it easier to drag out.
Once the bridge has been removed a Bailey bridge will be installed between two newly-built staging areas. This will act as a temporary bridge while a new one is designed and constructed.
Mr Wilson says reconnecting the Ruakituri community with the rest of the district is motivation for the crews.
“When one of us has to drive around to the other side of the river you get a small understanding of what residents have to deal with every time they head to town. We’re all committed to get this thing down as safely and quickly as we can so that the community can be reconnected.”
Mr Wilson thanked the local community for their patience while work continues.
Photo Caption: Cyclone Gabrielle dislodged Te Reinga Bridge’s middle pier in February 2023 leaving the 47-year-old, 100m long bridge badly damaged and out of use. Contractors working with Quality Roading and Services will carefully lower the bridge into the river. As the bridge is towed out of the river by trucks, logs underneath will help the heavy steel eye beams glide over the riverbed. In this image you can see the logs already in place, and a safety net further downstream.
17 May 2023
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