WE ASKED: Could there be a bridge at Lawrence?
FOLLOWING the recent breakdown of the Bluff Point Ferry near Lawrence that stranded four cars in the middle of river, many readers of The Daily Examiner questioned why a bridge couldn’t be built at the crossing.
We put the questions to Transport for NSW about whether a bridge could be built there, costs involved and other logistics that would have to be sorted.
For those of you keen on crossing the river quicker, we have bad news.
A Transport for NSW spokeswoman said they had carried out a strategic look at various bridge crossings within the Clarence Valley local government area as part of the Pacific Highway upgrade project, the new Grafton bridge project and the Sportsmans Creek Bridge replacement project.
“A new crossing at Lawrence is not supported due to the significant cost for a high level bridge which would have to cater for navigational clearances, relatively low numbers of vehicles, and property impacts on surrounding cane fields,” she said.
While they didn’t make an estimate on what a bridge at the site would be worth, the nearby Sportsman Creek bridge, which was a shorter, and significantly simpler bridge in design cost $27m, while the new Grafton bridge crossing cost an estimated $240m.
According to the spokeswoman, the current cost of the ferry service is approximately $2m per annum.
The Lawrence Ferry provides a link between the towns of Maclean and Lawrence as well as a link for cane trucks in the Lawrence area through to the Harwood Mill. During work on the Pacific Highway upgrade, the ferry connection also offered a relief valve for residents seeking to avoid congestion associated with the highway and the old Grafton Bridge.
In the past few years, Transport for NSW said they had worked to improve the Lawrence ferry service, following a growth in trips being made by customers. The extra travel demand was related to the infrastructure build associated with major projects such as the Pacific Highway upgrade, new Grafton bridge and the new Grafton correctional facility.
In response, in April 2019 Transport for NSW started regularly running a second ferry during the higher travel demand periods, particularly in cane season with an increased number of trucks crossing the river. They say these changes have meant a higher level of service, with at least one ferry operating at least 99.9 per cent of the time.
With the new Pacific Highway has opened between Tyndale and Glenugie, and a new bridge has been built across the Clarence River at Grafton, they said it had reduced congestion on the network, taking the pressure off the Lawrence Ferry.