11 Dec 2011

Coromandel bridge opens in time for holiday season

6:53 pm on 11 December 2011

A new two-lane bridge which will ease holiday traffic congestion in and out of Coromandel has been officially opened.

Work started on the $47 million Kopu Bridge, near Thames, in late 2009 and has been completed ahead of schedule.

The 587 metre bridge replaces the original Kopu Bridge, the last swing-span bridge in New Zealand, which opened in 1928.

That bridge has only one lane and has been controlled by traffic lights, causing delays of up to two hours at peak holiday times, with traffic sometimes stretching back ten kilometres.

In the holiday season about one thousand vehicles an hour cross the bridge.

Prime Minister John Key cut the ribbon at the official opening on Saturday morning, saying it was a great day for both the Coromandel and the large number of Aucklanders who holiday on the peninsula.

Mr Key jokingly told the crowd that if the project had not been finished for the holiday season, he would have sacked Transport Minister Steven Joyce.

He described the bridge as the greatest Christmas present ever for the region.

Thames-Coromandel mayor Glen Leach says the new bridge has been a long time in coming but has been worth the wait.

He says it will make a huge difference for people wanting to travel in and out of Thames.

Mr Leach says it will also make it easier for people living in the Hauraki Plains to visit Thames for shopping.

Thousands of people took the opportunity to walk across the bridge before it is opened to traffic some time next week.

Walkers are allowed on the bridge until 4.30pm on Saturday.