Locals want new Manawatu route as soon as possible

A small business community is jumping for joy as a new route to replace the Manawatu Gorge is announced.

The NZ Transport Agency has decided against fixing slip-stricken State Highway 3 in favour of a brand new road.

Evan Nattress from Woodville Enterprise says it is the best option.

"Once it's finished it will be so much easier for people in Palmerston North to get there and back. It looks like the new route will actually be faster than the old gorge route. A lot easier on trucks."

Manawatu Gorge connects the North Island's East Coast to Palmerston North and the lower North Island.

Officials say the new route was chosen after weighing up the needs of both cars and transport operators. 

"It will have a travel time that's shorter than the current Manawatu Gorge," NZTA regional relationship director Emma Speight said. "It's got a gradient of 8 percent, which is really important for freight users, and the route is going to be more resilient in earthquake conditions."

Mr Nattress hopes construction will start sooner rather than later.

"We can see some light at the end of the tunnel but it's a long way off. I think the only thing that can make anyone happier at the moment would be fast-tracking."

Construction is scheduled to begin in 2020 and will take four years to complete at a cost up to $560 million.

"It looks like they've actually done their homework… the sooner they get started, the better off we'll be."