Travellers to Nowra on Nerriga Road (Main Road 92) will welcome news that Transport for NSW is prioritising the opening of the new Charleyong Bridge over the Mongarlowe River, but some locals are dismayed that the old bridge is still destined for demolition.
Nerriga Road (MR92), also known as the Old Wool Road, runs between Braidwood and Nowra. The new $23 million bridge is funded under the NSW Government’s Bridges for the Bush Program.
The old Allen Truss Bridge, which has served the road since 1901, has been closed since late January as it became unsafe and road users have been diverted.
The Braidwood & District Historical Society (BDHS) believes the 1901 bridge should be kept and re-imagined as a tourist site and recreation area, thereby enhancing the heritage tourism plans Queanbeyan Palerang Regional Council (QPRC) has for the region.
Transport for NSW Regional Director Southern, Jo Parrott, said extra construction resources have been allocated to complete construction of the new bridge as soon as possible after it was determined that the existing timber truss bridge was extensively damaged.
“Safety is the main priority but Transport for NSW is committed to keeping the region moving, so this project is being fast-tracked,” Ms Parrott said.
“It is expected motorists will be using the new bridge by early March, weather permitting, which is months ahead of schedule. Once completed, road users can expect a safer journey with wider lanes on the bridge and new sealed road approaches. The new bridge will also cater for higher Mass Limit vehicles.”
Ms Parrott said the existing timber bridge is unsafe for vehicular and pedestrian access due to recent damage to the structure and will remain closed.
“Detailed inspections of the bridge and specialist advice revealed that temporary repairs of the bridge would take up to eight weeks, by which time the new bridge will already be open to traffic,” Ms Parrott said.
Demolition of the existing timber bridge is expected to start in mid-2020 and the community will be updated in advance of this work. Under current plans, Transport for NSW says timber from the Charleyong Bridge, which is not listed on the State Heritage Register, will be treated and recycled by a private contractor following demolition.
“The project team will consult key stakeholders in the coming months to further develop the heritage interpretation strategy,” Ms Parrott said.
Sue Doran from Friends of Mongarlowe River is grateful for the new bridge but wants the Charleyong bridge preserved for recreation and tourism.
“The error in allowing heavy traffic onto the Charleyong bridge has denied travellers and locals the peaceful enjoyment of the only experience from public land of our beautiful Mongarlowe river in the 45 km or so north of Mongarlowe itself, a space to rest having stocked up in the towns of Nerriga, Braidwood and Tarago/Bungendore,” Ms Doran said.
“And with the new bridge and road sealing the numbers of travellers on the Nerriga Road will increase immensely and rapidly. Our local member [Member for Monaro, John Barilaro] was wise to get this much-needed work done” she added.
“Charleyong Bridge as a footbridge would have provided accessible viewing of platypus and other wildlife as well as the use of the old rec ground – our proposal was to bring the cricket ground back to life and to provide BBQs, picnic tables and heritage walks.
“This special place holds stories from the Dreaming to Chinese gold mining history to the transport of Braidwood’s wool to the coast – the Charleyong Bridge being an essential part.”
“An ‘interpretation’ sign just doesn’t cut it” she said.
“Now we watch truck transport trump tourism and peaceful enjoyment of history and environment. Spending money on demolition at a time when so many bridges are burnt is immoral” said Ms Doran. “Only eight weeks to repair for years of enjoyment as well as the learning potential for millions of visitors.”
Ms Doran is urging the NSW Government, through local member John Barilaro, to keep the old bridge.
“Let’s just get it fixed. The Council’s heritage committee in December agreed – just give them the demolition money to keep it for walking frames, strollers and wheelchairs” said Ms Doran. “Come on, John Barilaro. You can do it!”
John Stahel from the Braidwood & District Historical Society added: “If the old bridge is so unsafe that it can’t take pedestrians after $6 million of reinforcement, I think they should be asking for our money back.”
Work will continue on the new bridge and road approaches for several months following the opening of the bridge to traffic with a 40 km/h reduced speed limit, lane closures and intermittent delays in place.
Nerriga Road will remain closed between Braidwood and Oallen Road until the new bridge is open to traffic.
The primary detour route (vehicles under 15 tonnes) is via Oallen Road, Sandy Point Road, Cullala Road, Lumley Road, Braidwood Road and Kings Highway, adding 35 minutes to travel times.
Heavy vehicles should use the Kings Highway or other approved routes depending on their load limit restriction and their origin and destination.