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Building bridges – QRS team members Nick Murray, Dennis Winiata, Paul Reedy and Troy Kara continue installing timber running boards and hold-down bolts on Sunday night just four hours ahead of the Waitahora Bridge being reopened

A new bridge (and a baby girl) is born

A woman in labour was one of the last people to cross the old Waitahora Bridge, adding to the drama as Quality Roading and Services (QRS) completed a bridge replacement in just three days in early May.

WEB EXCLUSIVE

Waitahora Bridge and Tiniroto Road reopened seven hours ahead of schedule following the epic effort which saw QRS staff work around the clock in terrible weather to strengthen the 12 m single-span one-lane bridge.

Waitahora Bridge is 2 km up Tinoroto Road from Frasertown, near Wairoa on the East Coast. It was closed at 9am on Friday 11 May so work could begin on lifting the bridge deck and two outside beams from the bridge abutments.

There was an early problem to overcome when it was discovered the bridge deck and beams were too heavy for the CR Taylor crane to safely lift it, says QRS construction manager Mike Wilson. “But part of the meticulous planning for this project for our client Wairoa District Council was to have contingencies in place,” he says. QRS had spent months planning for the bridge replacement along with Wairoa District Council and local contractors and suppliers.

Rather than lifting it all at once, the deck was instead separated from all five beams below and lifted first. The two outside beams needing to come out were lifted separately.

Torrential downpour

Mr Wilson says that by this time, the work crew were now a couple of hours behind – and then it began to rain. A torrential downpour dogged the five-strong QRS day shift. Rain continued all through the night making it slow-going for the five-strong night shift who worked predominantly on re-attaching a new timber deck.

Mr Wilson says that just before the road was closed, a woman in labour, driven by anxious family members, was waved through. “It was pretty full on. That situation, along with some challenging issues around fixtures and fittings and a rising river, certainly made for some dramatic moments!”

Despite the teeming rain and tough working conditions, the QRS staff never complained, Mr Wilson says, and instead threw themselves into finishing the bridge replacement ahead of schedule. “They got stuck in, stayed safe, and the mood was always great.”

Safe and speedy outcome

QRS chief executive Nigel Pollock has poured praise on the QRS staff who worked tirelessly to have the bridge reopened on time, ensuring less disruption for the public.

“None of us is as smart as all of us, and in this instance the teamwork displayed has led to a speedy safe outcome for everyone. Everyone involved can be very, very proud of their achievement,” he says.

QRS was pleased to learn later that a healthy baby girl was born in Hawke’s Bay Hospital a day after they closed the bridge!


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