The roadworks at Dignams Creek, south of Narooma are a real talking point for motorists negotiating the Princes Highway at the moment – the scale of the project is epic.
Twenty-five large pieces of machinery are currently onsite supporting the work of 80 people, who during August, September, October shifted 100,000 cubic meters of earth.
At one point in your journey north or south, you end up in the middle of the worksite under the control of high-viz lollypop people who are dwarfed by the massive wheels and earthmoving blades cutting a wider, safer, straighter roadway through what was once a lush floodplain and a forest of eucalypt and tree ferns.
“This section of road was identified by the State Coronial Inquest 10 years ago as having a very real need to be upgraded,” Member for Bega, Andrew Constance says.
“In that 10 years there have been 26 accidents on this section of highway and unfortunately one life has been lost.”
The end result of this $45 million upgrade will be a widening of the current highway for about 800 metres leading into two-kilometres of new roadway built to current highway standards. There will also be new bridges erected over Dignams Creek and Dignams Creek Road.
“The narrow approach to the bridge and the twists and turns of the road where built to standards that are 70 years old,” Mr Constnace says.
“Modern-day traffic travels quicker and there are more heavy vehicles on the road – it’s important we get on and fix roads like this.
“To see the project progressing now is very pleasing,” he says.
The signs you whizz past on either side of the road point to competition in mid-2019.
In the run-up to Christmas 2017, extra hours have been added to the work schedule, a move welcomed by residents keen to see the finish flag fall.
Crews are now working 6 days a week including Saturdays from 8am till 6pm.
John Cursley and his partner Maggie live 200 metres from the new section of highway, “It’s dusty and the noise at times is quite disrupting, but in defense of them [York Civil Road Engineers] they have tried to address the problem,” Mr Cursley says.
“They changed the beeper on the reversing trucks to a squawker.
“These trucks don’t seem to ever go forward,” Mr Cursley laughs.
Paul Munro and his partner Sally are 100 meters away and pump drinking water from the creek, “Our pipes and basins have been turning blue,” Mr Munro says.
“I think it points to a change in the pH and acidity of our water.
“We’ve been here over 30 years and its the first time we’ve seen these signs,” Mr Munro says.
Rising water levels downstream in the salty Wallaga Lake might also be influencing the water table and makeup of the Munro’s creek water.
Mr Munro doesn’t believe the water is toxic or harmful and has consulted the project’s environmental officer.
“Somethings changed, but there is a lot happening in the catchment – dust, earthworks, new drainage, so its hard to know where the change has come from, we’ll be keeping an eye on water quality,” Mr Munro says.
Both men also have concerns about flooding while works take place, worried what will happen if an East Coast Low forms and drops a lot of rain while the ground is open and exposed.
“The quicker they get the job done the better,” Mr Cursley says.
“It is what it is, we just have to see it out,” Mr Munro says.
Andrew Constance says he is particularly grateful for the input and understanding of local residents.
“At the end of the day, we’ve got to put community safety first, and I am confident the end result will address all concerns,” Mr Constance says.
“Look this work needed doing, the bridge is too narrow and the corner too steep,” Mr Cursley says.
Motorists will be moved to a new 800-metre temporary road at the northern end of the project from Monday November 27 until mid-2018, and work will be put on hold between December 16 and January 8 in order to keep holiday traffic moving.
“And motorists need to remember there are 80 people working on this site, and they need to go home to their families each night,” Mr Constance says.
“So please drive with patience, observe the reduced speed limits and traffic controls.”
*About Regional content is supported by the contribution of members, thank you to – Julie Rutherford Real Estate Bermagui, Fiona Cullen, Nancy Blindell, Jo Riley-Fitzer, Jenny Anderson, Ali Oakley, Julia Stiles, and Patrick Reubinson.