Far South Coast heritage icon the Cuttagee Bridge is in “worse condition” than council hoped and a new load limit has been brought in ahead of urgent repairs.
A recent assessment by Cardno Consulting Engineers reviewed the structural integrity of the bridge and found a number of concerns.
In response, Bega Valley Shire Council this week brought in a recommended 10-tonne load limit for the bridge as well as a reduced speed limit of five kilometres per hour until the urgent repairs can be completed.
Council’s acting director of assets and operations, Ian Macfarlane, said the bridge was “nearing the end of its functional life”.
“We commissioned this independent structural assessment to ascertain the current state of the bridge and check it was still safe to use,” he said.
“Unfortunately, the bridge is in a worse condition than we hoped, and we need to lower the load and speed limits to ensure the safety of all road users until the urgent repair works are completed.
“At this stage, we are planning to undertake the repair works in early January as it will take time to procure the specialised components which are not locally available.”
The 10-tonne limit should not impact the fire service’s operations or those towing caravans.
A council spokesperson said the Rural Fire Service had been told of the load limit before it was brought in to allow the service to develop alternative arrangements as required.
“The RFS has confirmed the load limit will not have an adverse effect on its ability to respond to and deal with fires in the area,” they said.
The spokesperson also said the majority of cars with caravans would fall “well under” the 10-tonne load limit so it was highly unlikely any cars towing caravans would be affected, however individual caravan owners should be aware of the weight of their combined car and caravan set-up.
It has been a tumultuous year for the much-loved bridge.
Earlier this year, BVSC resolved to replace Cuttagee Bridge with a two-lane concrete alternative, but the move was met with community uproar.
Later, council announced it would continue to plan for an upgrade to the bridge while also investigating alternatives to the current proposal in response to community feedback.
The Cuttagee Bridge Community Advisory Group was then formed to represent the community and provide advice to council on how to capture the heritage aspects of the bridge in any future construction or restoration project at the site.
The group’s recommendations will be presented to council next year, along with technical reports, independent expert advice and other relevant material.
Due to the 10-tonne limit, alternative routes for heavy vehicles are via the Princes Highway.
Cars and other small vehicles under 10 tonnes can still safely use Cuttagee Bridge, but must keep to the 5 km per hour speed limit.
Council said, after completion of the urgent repair works and based on the structural assessment, the maximum load limit may be increased to 15 tonnes with the reduced speed limit of 5 km per hour, due to the overall poor condition of the bridge.