Major construction work begins for new Grafton bridge
THE latest milestone for the construction of the new Grafton bridge has been set in metal and concrete.
Yesterday, after years of preparation and months of preliminary work, major construction work on the project began with the first of five supports for the bridge being installed in the Clarence River.
Pacific Highway's general manager Bob Higgins was the first to make the announcement at the work site yesterday.
"We're under way, we're really under way," he said.
"We've had to do a lot of what we call preliminary and levee work to get to this point ... now we're coming to the real business end where we start driving these piles."
It was also an exciting moment for Grafton Chamber of Commerce's Des Harvey.
"A couple of weeks ago my wife and I were walking across the bridge and I photographed this green verge (on the riverbank)," he said.
"I was reminded and mentioned to her of the time, about five years ago, that Duncan Gay was here with Steve Cansdell, and it was a matter of, 'So ladies and gentlemen, this is where we are going to build a bridge.' Now look what we're seeing.
"It's just absolutely fantastic, and great for all the city because traffic is just continuously getting busier and busier."
Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis said the milestone meant the easing of frustration over traffic congestion was one step closer.
"The start of land and marine piling is an exciting milestone for the project, putting the bridge well on track to meet its targeted date for opening to traffic in 2019, weather permitting," he said.
"This second crossing is going to be a godsend."
A total of 25 piles will be driven into rock for the project - 10 in the river and 15 on land - and the installation of the bridge foundations is expected to take about 12 months.
One issue Roads and Maritime Services will have to contend with as the project progresses, is members of the public checking it out while driving over the existing bridge.
As a result, the RMS is currently investigating several options including screens to improve safety during the build.
"What this is about is trying to get as much traffic across this bridge as we can while we're working," Ms Higgins said.
"To say yay or nay at this stage would be wrong, but people will look and how do we go about doing that to keep them focusing on the road ahead."