Earlier this month it took a 750-tonne crane to successfully lift a 30-metre long, four-metre wide steel bridge over the rail corridor and into place on the Burley Griffin Way at Wallendbeen.
The new but temporary bridge replaced a century-old cracked and aged two-lane brick overpass, which was closed in March due to major damage and, as a result, led to the partial closure of the road connecting Wallendbeen with Temora.
But the result has left residents of the small village north-east of Cootamundra in the NSW South West Slopes harbouring concerns about its efficacy.
They’re wondering why just one lane has been considered appropriate on a road corridor that acts a major western transport route connecting the western Riverina and Murrumbidgee regions to markets such as Canberra, Sydney and Newcastle.
The major link between the towns of Griffith and Yass passes through some of the richest agricultural areas in Australia with trucks making up a significant proportion of traffic using the road.
For the past six months all but local light traffic has been forced to divert 40 minutes through nearby Junee and onto Goldfields Way which leads them to Temora, Griffith and beyond.
The closure and subsequent demolition of the old bridge has also impacted the twice daily return rail services on the main southern line which carries the XPT passenger train from Sydney to Melbourne.
Passengers on the XPT have been shunted off carriages and onto buses as rail construction workers battled higher than average rainfall to get the job done by the due date of September.
The Wallendbeen community of 260 people who have already witnessed higher traffic volume skipping through their town, had warned the temporary solution would not be sufficient to handle the bulk and volume of traffic.
But their counsel went unheeded and now that they have seen the new structure, they’re also heralding concerns the one lane bridge could be dangerous.
The temporary bridge has been hailed by the NSW Government as a successfully speedy solution to a major transport network snag.
Member for Cootamundra Steph Cooke said placement of the temporary road over the rail bridge was planned down to the finest detail. She said crews had been working locally to connect the 210 pieces of the bridge since June.
“They’ve faced challenges with wet weather and soggy ground conditions but have been determined to get this temporary crossing into place for the benefit of all motorists, and particularly freight operators, as this is a key route on the network linking the Hume Highway to the Riverina and the Olympic and Newell highways,” she said.
“With the bridge structure finally in place, there was really no room for error in the finely orchestrated placement of the bridge”.
Work on the replacement crossing started in June and Transport for NSW crews will now build road approaches to connect traffic travelling along Burley Griffin Way.
The road should be open by the end of the month, weather permitting.
A Transport for NSW spokesperson said the temporary bridge was constructed to keep traffic moving and reduce the need for lengthy detours.
“While the original bridge, which was removed in March, had two lanes, this single-lane temporary bridge is comprised of modular, pre-engineered steel parts,” they said.
“This allowed it to be constructed on site and installed in a short time-frame with the aim of allowing traffic back on Burley Griffin Way as quickly as possible.”
The department has confirmed once work is completed on the road tie-ins at either end, the temporary crossing is on track to open to traffic in the week beginning October 25 and will remain in place until the permanent replacement bridge is built.
The final design for a permanent crossing is expected to be completed by the end of the year with the timeframe for its construction to follow.
They say the permanent bridge will be two lanes and wider than both the previous bridge and the temporary bridge.
“Until then, the temporary one-lane bridge will allow all road users – including heavy vehicles up to 4.2 metres wide – to continue their journey along Burley Griffin Way.”
Portable traffic lights will be deployed to manage traffic which totals around 1000 vehicles per day in each direction.