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Big dry is affecting gravel roads

Whangarei’s gravel roads are being affected by this summer’s big dry, and the effects will last until the end of the drought at least, says Northland Transport Alliance Manager Calvin Thomas.

“The ground is so dry that we can’t grade the roads to remove corrugations and pot holes, and we share the community’s frustrations. We ask people to be patient, drive to the conditions and to keep reporting dangerous areas to us.

“We will assess every situation and make a call about what repairs we can do if any, but our options are very limited because of the dry conditions.

“We rely on a level of ground moisture to bond graded gravel with the road’s sub surface, but at the moment there is just no moisture there.

“When there is moisture grading creates a relatively long-wearing surface that can last until the next scheduled maintenance. When the conditions are right, regular grading and topping up of the gravel keeps the road in good order.

“This year the ground is so dry that the gravel and clay underneath can’t bond.

“If we grade the road at this time of the year the gravel we bring in from the sides of the roads digs out the underlying road surface, increasing corrugations and pot-holes.

“Very quickly, loose gravel moves to the sides of the roads, leaving a bare patch in the middle. At the first hint of rain that area softens up and before the surface can be metalled up or graded, potholes form.

“Cutting deeper to remove pot holes while the road is dry does more damage to the road, only makes a difference for a few days, and usually causes an increase in complaints,” he said.

“We need rain. When we get it and the soil moisture increases, the crews can renew unsealed roads properly.

“In the meantime, the ‘drive to the conditions’ message applies to summer’s dry times as well as to winter’s wet slippery conditions.

“Drivers need to being aware that dust can hamper visibility, roads can have bumps and lumps, gravel can pile up and cause hazards, driving may need to be slower and more time may need to be allowed. People need to plan ahead, be prepared and drive safely.

“It is enormously frustrating, but we ask people to bear with us while we do the best we can.”


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