The sun is shining and the water is glistening on Clyde River as the John Holland workers continue to dismantle the old Batemans Bay Bridge.
For the most part, the iconic bridge is completely gone. All that remains of the town’s landmark structure is a few piers rising from the water.
After the new bridge was officially opened to the public in March 2021, it took just three weeks for the old bridge to start coming down.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson said each pier comprises a concrete headstock and two concrete caissons, built with a solid concrete plug at the top and bottom, with a voided centre.
“To prepare for the bridge removal, Transport for NSW carried out extensive investigation, planning and design,” said the spokesperson.
Safety and environmental measures were also part of the planning process for removing the piers. Ageing structures can have unknown or hidden conditions, and the old Batemans Bay bridge was no exception.
“The preparation work included planning for unknown discoveries during the works,” said the spokesperson. “A team prepares contingency plans, and a team of specialists manage any environmental, safety and design issues.”
One of the previously unknown features that was discovered was high-quality hardwood timber used as the formwork in the old bridge caissons, which workers have found challenging to break through.
The team removed the caissons by using specialist equipment, including a custom-made diamond wire concrete saw that is adjustable to suit the varying caisson sizes.
In order for the deconstruction to run smoothly while keeping the public safe, a marine exclusion zone has been put in place, meaning all non-project vessels must not enter it.
A navigation channel is marked to provide safe passage for vessels through the zone.
Once the piers are removed, they are taken to a designated area on the northern foreshore of Clyde River and the concrete and steel are taken offsite for recycling.
With the old Batemans Bay Bridge nearly entirely gone, residents can look forward to parts of it being turned into a sculpture that will sit by the water’s edge.
However, the material from the piers is not being used in the sculpture. Rather, it will be made from steel from the trusses removed from the old bridge.
Transport for NSW says removing the piers is not the final step of dismantling the old bridge.
“Once the nine piers have all been removed, the temporary jetty will be dismantled and the processing area on the northern foreshore will be decommissioned to allow for the planned foreshore upgrade,” said the spokesperson.
Motorists can now drive across all four lanes of the new Batemans Bay Bridge, just in time for holiday traffic towards the end of the year, when tourism will hopefully boom once again in coastal towns on the NSW South Coast following COVID-19 lockdown.
The new bridge has also become a popular walking track, affording spectacular views over the Clyde River and beyond.
Work on dismantling the old bridge will continue until late 2021.