Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Bridges and Roads Update

There are still no new bridges as we approach the two-year anniversary of the infamous 2-tonne limit at Marlee, but they are still on Greater Taree City Council's horizon. Certainly the raising of that limit to 8 tonnes has made this waiting game at least tolerable, so there are small achievements to be thankful for.

Another positive is the securing of $2.5 million in State contribution to the bridges, after a full year of intensively lobbying our MP Andrew Stoner prior to the election. We are hopeful that this contribution may be raised to $3 - or even $3.5 - million though not in this financial year. This would make the State contribution 50%, as originally promised, because Council's estimate has gone up from $5 million to $7 million following the first tender process which failed in March this year. The new design tender has just been advertised, the construction tender is planned for April 2012, so there won't be any work on site till around the middle of next year.

Council is planning for two new concrete two-lane bridges, Duffs being on a new road approach, and Marlee using the existing road. This means that Marlee Bridge will have to be completely closed for a period while the old bridge is being demolished and the new one constructed. However, Council is anticipating this closure to be only for 7 to 10 days!

Further up Bulga Rd, extensive damage resulted from the flooding rains in June, with numerous landslip sites including a major one near Elands, which will all cost an estimated $2.8 million to repair. We have, only this morning, spoken about the state of the roads around Ellenborough Falls on ABC Mid North Coast radio, followed by Wendy Machin, president of the NRMA, who is visiting Wingham today and planning to take the Tourist Drive 8 route herself to Wauchope tomorrow morning. We have been in contact with Ms Machin and her Regional Policy Specialist in recent weeks and hope to speak to them this afternoon. Their stated aim for this north coast trip is to start looking more at the back roads.

We have also lodged a submission with NSW Roads Minister, Duncan Gay, requesting that the Tourist Drive 8 route be reclassified to Regional Road status, thereby ensuring that there will be annual State assistance dedicated to this roadwork on these roads. Bulga Rd was a Regional Road when the tourist route was first designated, but was declassified in 1996 leaving Council solely responsible for the road maintenance costs. Andrew Stoner continues to support this endeavour and meet with us on a regular basis. Council has also assured us they are working towards the same end in their dealings with the Roads Minister.

We have been informed by Council's Tourism Coordinator that from November this year, $5 million will be spent on RTA signage to direct tourists to the top ten 'must see' attractions between Sydney and Brisbane. Ellenborough Falls is one of these ten. We are asking the Minister to commit to reclassification before the inevitable increase in tourist traffic begins. Our main reason is road safety, so we are focusing on increasing road width in the narrow spots, safety barriers, pruning of vegetation, and maintaining good surface conditions through resheeting and regular grading.

As you can see, although nothing appears to be happening on the ground, we are continuing to lobby and there is some progress, slow though it may be. As always, we welcome your thoughts, comments and any offers to get involved!

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