Three strikes at bridging the gap
Three strikes at bridging the gap
HAVE we lost our marbles? Our valley is divided by a large estuary. We need to find ways to minimise the divide by making it easier for us to connect. We're failing.
In the 200km between Tabulam and Yamba there are three "real" (that is ones which don't flood) bridges crossing the Clarence - Harwood, Grafton and Tabulam. All are slated to be augmented or replaced.
There has been enough written about its new bridge although it misses an opportunity. Make the new bridge the only motorised bridge into Grafton (except for emergencies), with the old bridge becoming a people bridge. If necessary this could include making it a three-lane bridge with the centre lane reversible.
Also for Grafton, the current flood-prone, highly dangerous Rogan Road "bridge" should be rebuilt going from bank top to bank top, with wide bicycle lanes and access to the estuary. Not only would it provide a great cycle-racing circuit, but it would allow tour boats to go from Grafton to Copmanhurst and open up this lovely part of the river.
The new bridge access is like wet noodles tied in a knot. It is inappropriate for a local community of 15,000 to 20,000 and growing. It deserves on-off access in both directions on each side of the river. What are we getting?
From Brisbane coming south after the Iluka exit: An off ramp at Watts Ln, Harwood, and an off ramp to the Maclean-Yamba Road (MYR).
To Brisbane going north from the Ferry Park exit: An on ramp at Watts Ln.
From Sydney coming north after the Ferry Park exit: An off ramp to the MYR.
Note: Iluka is the next exit so there will be no northbound off ramp on Chatsworth Island.
To Sydney going south from the Iluka exit: An on ramp at the MYR.
What difficulties does this arrangement create?
Any traffic wanting to go to Chatsworth Island from the south will have to exit at the MYR interchange and use the existing bridge.
Any traffic on Chatsworth Island wanting to head south will have to use the existing bridge and the MYR interchange.
All traffic heading north from the MYR will have to use the existing bridge and enter the new road at Watts Lane. All cane trucks from the south side will have to use existing bridge, coming and going.
At the MYR interchange there will be three "T" intersections and a roundabout. Bad for B-doubles! Although this is kind-of similar to the existing situation, consideration must be given to the fact that the MYR precincts are our fastest growing area; that the two-lane MYR is already inadequate and a four-lane road (with a bicycle path) will be essential within a few years. Not taking this into account is incomprehensible.
And finally under this plan, the old bridge cannot be a community bridge. It will be as people-inhospitable as it currently is. So along with a bit of local traffic it could be used for bicycles, fun-runs, jogging; bridge parties, highland jigs, people communication!
We had the opportunity to achieve a positive, valley-beneficial outcome by insisting on a better solution. To date we've failed. And as any road engineer would never voluntarily design this monstrosity, there must be another reason. I suspect it's to do with the 30m clearance requirement.
As the bridge is upstream from the sugar mill and marine construction activities, having 30m clearance is not necessary. In fact it's useless. Just past Maclean there are powerlines with 12m clearance and the Grafton bridges only have nine-metre clearance (and their marina is upstream from their bridges!). Just how many eight-storey-high cruise ships are going to dock at Maclean?
If the clearance was reduced to match an unopened old bridge, I suspect a completely different exit design could be developed. Also the opening portion of the old bridge could be permanently closed. It may stop a few boats visiting the Harwood pub but not many.
Is it too late? Definitely not. The latest plan was November 2015 and it even stated that the bridge design had not been done.
Our leaders need to make this travesty their number one priority and ensure that a bridge complex that is appropriate for the whole valley now and for the future is carried out.
If they don't, then maybe they are the ones who should be carried out.
The Tabulam Bridge is the longest timber bridge in the southern hemisphere. It is a national treasure, but is going to be demolished. It is one of only two significant structures along the river above Copmanhurst. We should be rioting!
Being a one-lane bridge, it is not suitable for a major highway. It appears the new bridge will be two lanes with no pedestrian walkway, even though there are communities on both sides of the river. Also RMS says it will "support … economic and tourist development for Tabulam". Destroying this iconic bridge will improve tourism? Amazing. Keeping the old bridge could be part of a magical river trail and provide a safe crossing for people.