Arthur’s Pass route daytime closures for two weeks in December

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch
Nov 02, 2023 |

Waka Kotahi NZ Transport Agency will be closing SH73, the Arthur’s Pass route linking the West Coast and Canterbury early in December for around two weeks. The closures will affect daytimes on weekdays, 10 am to 6 pm, Monday 4 December to Friday 15 December.      

 “Drivers will be able to use SH73 between Otira and Arthur’s Pass village up to 10 am each day and after 6 pm at night, Monday to Friday,” says Mark Pinner, Canterbury/West Coast System Manager, Waka Kotahi.

  • The first day of the closure, Monday, 4 December is Westland Anniversary Day. West Coasters will need to be at Otira by 10 am if they are heading east on SH73 and back at Arthur’s Pass after 6 pm to get home.

  • The route will be open over the weekend in the middle – 9 and 10 December.

  • Arthur’s Pass and Otira townships will be accessible at all times from each side of the Main Divide and Waka Kotahi encourages people to continue to visit.

  • The rest of the West Coast remains open for business. Routes north and south along the Coast Road (SH6) are unaffected by this closure.

  • Emergency services will be escorted through the SH73 site as required.

“We know this closure will be unwelcome for many regular road users, businesses along the route and visitors to the West Coast, but this fortnight before the Christmas holidays has the least impact overall, compared to later options, and follows extensive engagement with travel, hospitality and freight operators,” says Mr Pinner.

  • The alternative route linking the two regions is the SH7 route through  the Lewis Pass Reefton and Waipara, which adds 40 minutes to the 3.5 hour journey Greymouth to Christchurch over Arthur’s Pass.*

  • SH73 will be reopened fully each day outside the 10am – 6pm closure which means many people will still be able to make the Christchurch – West Coast link for daytime appointments.

“Our aim is to ensure that the highway remains safe and fit for purpose for many years to come,” says Mr Pinner. “We want to reduce the potential for more frequent short-term delays in the future due to failures in the road surface. It is now starting to crumble in places. This road is constantly under significant stresses from its grade (16%) and the alpine environment with seasonal weather extremes,” says Mr Pinner. 

Around 1500 vehicles a day use SH73 on average.

“This will be inconvenient for many people, but we believe this is the shortest and most efficient way to get this key piece of work, both sides of the highway, completed safely and successfully. We thank everyone for building in the extra 40 minutes if they need to take the SH7 Lewis Pass route during this time, or if they organise their trip around the closures times.”

What is happening and where?

Around 342 metres of SH73 above the Rock Shelter below the viaduct on the Otira/West Coast side of the highway needs to be re-surfaced with new asphalt. It was last fully resealed around 12 years ago, with just short-term repairs in more recent years.

  • Drivers waiting for the 6 pm opening will be paused at Arthur’s Pass village and Otira on each side of the Pass, where there is parking and café/ restroom facilities.

The road is narrow in this part of the Otira Gorge – around 7.5 metres guardrail to cliff face on the inside across two lanes. This means the paving and sealing machines fill up the space and do not allow room for traffic to safely pass while work is underway, says Mr Pinner.

Chris Lynch
Chris Lynch

Chris Lynch is a journalist, videographer and content producer, broadcasting from his independent news and production company in Christchurch, New Zealand. If you have a news tip or are interested in video content, email [email protected]

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