Two more lanes of traffic are set to open on the Auckland Harbour Bridge this morning after a temporary fix to a damaged strut was successfully completed overnight - leaving just two of the eight lanes closed while officials scramble for a long-term fix.
On Friday, four of the bridge's lanes were closed after a truck was hit by a 127km/h wind gust, damaging the strut on the bridge's arc.
The lower half of the strut has since been replaced with a section of freshly fabricated steel, the New Zealand Transport Agency said early this monring in a press release.
All southbound lanes of the Auckland Harbour Bridge into the city centre were closed overnight to allow bridge engineers to take out the damaged piece of steel and install the new section of the bridge strut. Traffic remained very congested this morning as commuters lined up to cross the bridge as it reopened at 5am.
The two extra lanes include one northbound lane and one southbound lane. The two centre span lanes have not yet reopened.
The temporary fix is in place after specialist bridge engineers and fabricators designed the new strut, calculated and planned its repair and manufactured the steel strut following an assessment of the damage caused by the vehicle.
“We had perfect weather conditions on the Harbour Bridge overnight and so progress was much faster than we had hoped," said Waka Kotahi New Zealand Transport Agency general manager of transport services Brett Gliddon.
"There was very little wind, good temperatures and visibility, which meant the team were able to get the new section installed and carry out the testing all in one night.
"This temporary repair allows two extra lanes (one northbound lane and one southbound lane) on the centre span of the bridge to open to traffic. The two outer clip-on lanes are open, which will mean three lanes in each direction."
Gliddon said the bridge is "still in a more compromised state than usual and loads on the bridge will need to be managed carefully", however.
"This will remain until the permanent solution is in place and the bridge can support its full weight capacity again."
NZTA is now working on a permanent repair of the damage to eventually re-open all lanes on the Harbour Bridge. It's expected to take some time, however, and is still weeks away from installation.
Extensive testing on the bridge was carried out before reopening the lanes, including real life testing with heavy vehicles, to ensure it is performing to the necessary design specifications and requirements.
No overweight vehicles are currently allowed on the Harbour Bridge, and heavy vehicles have been advised to use the Western Ring Route as an alternative route until the permanent solution is installed.
Buses should continue to use the clip-on lanes.
"The bridge is still not fully operational, and one lane remains closed each way ... and congestion is still expected on all state highways and local roads," Gliddon said.
Commuters who must travel have been recommended to use public transport, particularly the Northern Express routes from the North Shore.
People travelling by car have been advised to plan ahead, check their journey planner apps and use the Western Ring Route via State Highway 16 and State Highway 18 as an alternative to State Highway 1 and the bridge.
The bus priority lane that has been in place for the past two days at the Fanshawe Street on-ramp has been relocated to the left of the on-ramp to help provide more reliable travel for people on buses. The Curran Street northbound on-ramp can re-open to traffic.