Monday, December 12, 2011

No More Kopu Congestion

Finally it's here: the new Kopu Bridge outside Thames.
Never thought it would happen in my lifetime!
Last Saturday's ribbon-cutting and public walk-over marks the end of horrendous holiday hold-ups, stretching back across the Hauraki Plains for 10km or more!
The $40m+ two-lane bridge, with pedestrian/cycle path, replaces a veteran single-file structure (with two miniscule passing bays in the middle and its little watch-hut) that has served as the Coromandel Peninsula's main gateway for 84 years. Yes, that's right: built before The Depression!
The old bridge could swing open to allow the passage of vessels. Its swinging span was 43m long and with an overall length of 463m, the bridge was the longest and oldest single lane bridge in NZ's state highway network. As the first available crossing of the Waihou River and the main link between the Hauraki Plains and Coromandel Peninsula, it saw a lot of traffic, especially during holidays. Due to a gradual increase in traffic between Auckland and the peninsula, by the early 1990s the bridge had become the most heavily-used single-lane bridge in the country, averaging 9,000 vehicles per day (and double that at peak holiday times!). Traffic flow was controlled by signals at either end, which did little to alleviate the peaks.
Although the first vehicles could be using the new bridge and approach roads by today, the NZ Transport Authority is reluctant to commit to an exact date for linking it into State Highway 25.
As for the old bridge? Well, it's classified as a Category One historic site by the NZ Historic Places Trust, so options for its future are being considered...
But rejoice, all travellers heading to the Coromandel this Xmas! "Are we there yet? Are we there yet?" may become a chorus of the past...
PS: 06 Feb.2012 - Outcry as Thames-Coromandel's mayor proposes demolishing the old bridge.

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