Travel along the Princes Highway south of Cobargo has become much slower after a log truck significantly damaged the Brogo Bridge.
Alternating stop and slow conditions will be in place for weeks with only one lane available after the vehicle jack-knifed on the bridge early Tuesday (26 April) morning.
Emergency crews attended the crash at 4:30 am.
The incident has highlighted accessibility issues in the area, with Bega Mayor Russell Fitzpatrick fed up with the lack of state action on the roads it owns.
“The danger of [Brogo Bridge] has been well-known for a very long time; it’s the same bridge since I was a kid, the same dangerous corner,” he said.
“When it’s totally closed, there’s no access on that part of the Princes Highway; you have to divert to Bermagui.
“It’s imperative major routes remain open and accessible at all times, especially since we’ve had the bushfires and floods.”
Locals took to social media to express their concerns about the bridge.
“It is a very scary bridge to cross with a large float. I don’t know how there haven’t been more accidents. So very narrow for trucks and some awful car drivers at times. I hope something is done now to upgrade the bridge,” one local said.
“Such a dangerous, narrow bridge. Always makes me nervous crossing, especially with our horses on board,” another said.
One local added that the bridge’s southern end was “really ridiculous for any larger vehicle” and “should have been fixed decades ago”.
The alternate route to Bermagui can add an extra hour and a half for some motorists and has weight limits, which Mr Fitzpatrick said was “extremely concerning”.
“It’s a safety issue; what if an ambulance can’t get through? They can’t take that long,” he said.
“Food delivery trucks can’t use the wooden bridges [at Bermagui], so food supply to supermarkets on the south coast is held up.”
The other state-managed major route into the region, the Snowy Mountains Highway through Brown Mountain, has also long been of concern to locals.
“It’s a 10 km road with numerous landslides, lanes fall away, in high winds trees fall across it, it’s an on-going problem,” Mr Fitzpatrick said.
“When the fires came, we had everyone back to the border sitting on that road at Brown Mountain to get out; if there had been a landslide no one could have gotten home or out.”
Mr Fitzpatrick also acknowledged local council-managed roads were experiencing their own issues.
“Recent rain means they’re a quagmire; the potholes are so large we can’t repair them unless we rip the whole road out,” he said.
“The gravel roads especially, the water is so far into the road base it needs to be completely replaced. At the moment if we added more gravel it would just add to the soup mix.
“We’re asking people to please continue to be patient; we also need to find the dollars and dry weather to get the work done.”
Eden Fire and Rescue NSW crews gave the log truck driver first aid until an ambulance arrived. The 70-year-old was taken to Southeast Regional Hospital for shock and minor injuries.
He has since been released.
Meanwhile RFS Brogo assisted with mopping up the fuel spill and providing fire protection, with absorption pads placed along the bridge to soak up any oil and fuel.
NSW Police is investigating the incident and is appealing to witnesses or motorists with dashcam footage to contact Bega Police on 6492 999 or Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000 with any information.
Transport for NSW inspected the damage on Wednesday (27 April) but it is still unknown how long repairs will take or how much it will cost.
“Further assessments are being undertaken to understand the extent of the damage and repairs needed,” a spokesperson said.
“Traffic will remain open to one lane only until detailed assessments and any required repairs can be undertaken.”