WORK on the $185million second bridge over the Clarence River at Grafton will begin in the new year.
The final road block - approval from the NSW Department of Planning and Environment - had now been overcome, Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said yesterday.
Mr Gulaptis said the second bridge was the single biggest infrastructure project Grafton had seen.
"The additional crossing is vital to easing current and future traffic demand on the existing bridge and enhance safety for road users," Mr Gulaptis said.
"The second Grafton bridge will be about 450m long, with parts of Iolanthe St, Pound St and Villiers St becoming the Summerland Way."
Mr Gulaptis said the work would also include the upgrading to four lanes of link roads, including the Gwydir Hwy between Bent St and the Pacific Hwy, Iolanthe St and Pound St between Villiers St and the approach to the new bridge.
Roads Minister Duncan Gay said the green light from the planning department was good news for the Valley.
"This approval allows us to start work to address existing traffic issues around the intersection of the Gwydir and Pacific Hwys at Charles St early next year," he said.
"I am proud the NSW Liberals and Nationals is delivering on its commitments - because unlike former governments, our election commitments are non-negotiable."
Mr Gulaptis said there would be intersection upgrades at the Pacific Hwy and Iolanthe St, Pacific Hwy and Gwydir Hwy, Through St and Iolanthe St and Spring St.
He said Grafton would have its first taste of traffic lights to control bridge traffic.
"Traffic signals would improve road safety for motorists, cyclists and pedestrians, and they will be installed at the intersection of Pound and Clarence Sts near Grafton TAFE," he said.
"Signalised pedestrian crossings will also be installed at Iolanthe St and the Gwydir Hwy to facilitate safe crossings for pedestrians and cyclists.
"Once built, B-doubles and semi-trailers will be required to use the new bridge.
"Buses, emergency vehicles, smaller heavy vehicles and local traffic can use either bridge.
"The existing bridge will be retained, with one northbound lane and one southbound lane."
Grafton businessman Des Harvey has been a long-time advocate of the second Grafton bridge and while delighted with the news, has a word of warning for the politicians.
"It's great news. It seems this time we're going to get the bridge built," he said.
"But we'll still be keeping the pressure on them. We'll be watching them all the way to make sure they keep moving on it."
Mr Harvey's caution results from more than a decade of disappointments as successive NSW governments reneged on promises to build a second bridge.
Most famously, former premier Bob Carr promised funding for the bridge in 2004, only to later withdraw funding on a technicality.
Mr Harvey said he was confident this time there would be no repeat of that performance.
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