Thursday, November 5, 2009

WINGHAM CHRONICLE: Bridge Alternatives

Bridge alternatives
3/11/2009 11:37:00 AM

Greater Taree City Council will tonight consider ways to improve access to the northern side of Marlee Bridge for vehicles that exceed the crossing’s two-tonne load limit.

There has been a public outcry over the imposition of the load limit on the Bulga Road bridge and now the council is investigating alternative options to the detour through Strathcedar, Mooral Creek and Warrawillah, which many residents have branded inappropriate.

Particular concern has been expressed for the high school bus travelling the narrow, winding and flood prone route and for emergency service vehicles which would be delayed by the lengthy detour.

In a late report to the ordinary meeting of council tonight, acting manager of operations John Stuckey outlines five alternative options for heavier vehicles looking to cross Dingo Creek via Bulga Road.

1. Replace the deteriorated cross beams on Marlee Bridge
Three deteriorated cross beams have had the most significant effect on the structural integrity of the bridge. Their replacement would cost an estimated $50,00. It is hoped this would increase the weight limit for larger four-wheel drives. The Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) has advised it would be in a position to start these works shortly after Christmas.

2. Construct a low-level causeway to provide access to overweight vehicles when stream levels are low.

This option would cost about $230,000 for the causeway and a further $200,000 for the approach roads. Possible additional costs include the relocation of utility services, lease payments for private properties and ongoing maintenance following floods. The existing detour already provides this service to the community, the report says, albeit with 13 kilometres longer to travel.

3. Construct a low-level Bailey bridge or Unibridge to provide access to overweight vehicles when stream levels are low to medium.

The estimated cost is $850,000. The additional costs of option two are likely to apply.

4. Lease or provide a pontoon, similar to what the army uses
An estimated cost is not available, though the road approaches would cost about $200,000 and the additional costs of option two would also apply.

5. Utilise an existing creek crossing

This option is yet to be fully investigated.

The report also says the bridges have a “high level of heritage significance” for social and aesthetic reasons.

Ultimately, the report recommends the council reallocate the $248,000 earmarked for the reconstruction of two other bridges – one at Wallamba and one at Wherrol Flat – to pay for preliminary works associated with the reconstruction of Marlee Bridge.

It also recommends the council commit $2 million from its 2010-11 budget to replace the bridge and complete associated roadworks.

The report admits the council failed to properly consult with the community over this issue.

“It is acknowledged that the consultation process could have been better managed and council regrets not involving the community earlier,” the report says.
Citizens concerned about the bridge have asked others affected to attend tonight’s meeting to stress that an urgent solution is needed.

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