20 July 2020

Tight turnaround for rebuilding burnt-out bridges

| Kim Treasure
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View from beneath Pidgeon Gully Bridge, destroyed by bushfire.

Pidgeon Gully Bridge, south of Braidwood, was destroyed during the Black Summer bushfires. Photo: Supplied.

Eighteen bridges in 18 months – that’s the lofty target Eurobodalla Shire Council’s works department has set itself in the wake of the past summer’s devastating bushfires.

To put the scale of the rebuilding project into perspective, constructing one bridge would usually take 20-26 weeks.

Many of the shire’s small communities were isolated after the bushfires damaged or destroyed 18 timber bridges across the Eurobodalla, at a cost of about $8 million.

Council engineer Lew Oldfield said most of the bridges were west of the Princes Highway and provided essential access for rural property owners.

“Our initial priority was to restore access and it was all hands on deck to undertake temporary repairs and build side tracks where we could,” he said.

“We are now focusing on permanent solutions. It’s a massive undertaking but we’re making solid headway.”

Six months on from the bushfires, the council team has finished restoring four bridges, has contracts let for a further three, and has two out for tender.

Pidgeon Gully Bridge on Araluen Road.

A temporary side track was built at Pidgeon Gully Bridge, on Araluen Road, while the bridge was replaced with concrete box culverts. Photo: Supplied.

“State government support has allowed us to streamline the tender process and move more quickly,” said Mr Oldfield.

“We are also building modular bridges, which comprise components that are manufactured off site and then just put together.”

Where possible, council is also replacing timber structures with concrete, thus increasing their resilience against future disasters.

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Mr Oldfield said work on four bridges at Araluen, Wagonga, Belowra and Nerrigundah was now complete, with a footbridge at Rosedale to be finished by council staff at the end of the month. Work on two tendered bridges is likely to start in September and be complete by October.

With favourable weather, Mr Oldfield hopes council will complete 12 bridges by Christmas and have all 18 repaired or replaced by late 2021.

The work is funded by the Commonwealth and NSW Government’s combined Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements.

READ ALSO New Batemans Bay bridge still on schedule

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