There will be general rejoicing and high fiving around Tumbarumba way when news filters through that the heavy machinery is now in action on Elliott Way and is now due to reopen in May.
The route is a road less travelled through the Snowy Mountains, offering varied scenery to tourists as it winds through some of the highest settlements in Australia. It also acts as a local shortcut for farmers with properties either side of the mountains and anyone headed to or from the South Coast.
Closed since bushfires tore through the region in late 2019-2020, storm activity and subsequent landslips led to further delays in reopening.
NPWS Southern Ranges Branch Director, Mick Pettitt, said the repairs to Elliott Way are significant but the road is scheduled to be reopened in May at an estimated cost of up to $12 million.
“The first part of the Elliot Way reopening started with the removal of fallen trees and soil from the road surface immediately after the fire and subsequent storm event in late February,” he said.
“Geo-technical drilling was also necessary to enable work to start on removing the three huge landslides and making the road safe again for other repairs”.
Mr Pettitt said the drilling discovered further damage beneath the road surface.
“This is no ordinary road repair project for Elliott Way and Goat Road,” he explained.
“Last year’s bushfires burned away all the ground cover on these steep slopes making them vulnerable to subsequent torrential rain.
“This scoured the bare landscape, damaging the roadway along Link Road, Goat Ridge Road and Elliott Way blocking culverts with sediment, causing stormwater runoff to overtop the embankments creating further erosion, undermining the road surface and triggering several significant landslips.
“We’re very grateful for the patience and understanding of the local community who’ve been inconvenienced by this dangerous situation,” Mr Pettit said.
Link Road and the KNP5 Road are already open to the public between Kiandra and Tooma/Khancoban, but general access to Cabramurra township remains closed due to post-fire reconstruction by Snowy Hydro Ltd.
There also is increased traffic, including heavy vehicles, on the Snowy Mountains Highway Link Road from the Snowy 2.0 project.
Kings Cross Road is closed due to reconstruction work at the Mt Selwyn Ski Resort which was also devastated by bushfire.
Mr Pettit said more than eight kilometres of severely damaged guard rail has been removed and replaced while four kilometres of guard rail had been repaired.
“Fire damaged road furniture like lane markers, light poles and signs along 80 kilometres of road corridor are also being replaced,” he said.
The final stage of the project will be resealing 80 kilometres of damaged road surface.
These works will be prioritised and staged to maintain access to any areas already open, with minimal disruption to the public.
Signage and guard rail replacement works are being undertaken at the same time.
Mr Pettitt said the project was one of many undertaken as part of the bushfire recovery effort by NPWS, with a total 11,000 kilometres of the state’s roads and trails damaged by fire in national parks.
“Of the 257 visitor precincts damaged and closed, 210 or 81 per cent have since reopened as part of a massive investment by NPWS in the repair of fire-damaged infrastructure,” he said.