Bega Valley Shire Councillors have endorsed a plan to secure a long-term future for Cuttagee bridge by formally accepting a $15 million grant from the NSW Government.
The grant intended to provide resilient, safe and high-quality road infrastructure was gratefully accepted by Council resolution with permission granted to Council’s CEO to negotiate elements of the funding deed.
Mayor, Russell Fitzpatrick said the funding from the NSW Government to renew the bridge and to ensure improved accessibility on this key regional road is greatly appreciated
“We all like the appeal of a single lane timber bridge, but the fact remains that a two-lane concrete structure will outlast a timber bridge by several decades and considerably improve vital access to communities along the Tathra-Bermagui Road,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
Council rejected assessment of a two-lane bridge with hybrid concrete and timber construction which would keep some of the heritage on the tourist road, on show.
Councillors voted five to three in favour of moving forward with a two-lane concrete bridge with pathway, something many locals have been wanting to avoid, instead asking for a restored single-lane timber bridge.
“I thank Councillors for a robust and respectful debate, and now we have a resolution to proceed,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
“Time is limited, with milestone conditions set as part of the funding deed so there is a need to move quickly. However, we are not in a position to start construction immediately with detailed design and costings to be undertaken,” he continued.
“Additionally, there are a number of activities to secure the relevant approvals including DAs for demolition and construction in this sensitive coastal area, and importantly the resolution of the heritage status of the bridge that is listed on our Local Environmental Plan.
“We have granted permission for the CEO to negotiate elements of the agreement that will ultimately save time and money while delivering a resilient and low maintenance bridge that the community needs.
“Chief among these is to request that the focus for design is only on two-lane concrete structures. These are stronger, safer, allow access for all vehicles including emergency services vehicles and can be built with less disruption to road users and local communities.
“The condition of the current bridge means there isn’t a feasible way to safely restore it without demolition and a full rebuild, so thoughtful planning for a 100-year life-span with potentially greater traffic loads and usage into the future is essential.
“We understand some people in the community will be unhappy with this decision, however, recent engagement with local residents and business owners demonstrates a shift in favour towards a two-lane concrete bridge particularly following the recent Coolagolite/Bermagui Fires where this bridge was in critical danger and could easily have been destroyed had weather conditions not eased.”
Cr Fitzpatrick said the generous grant from the NSW Government allows for the project to progress to the next stages of design scoping and approvals.
“The grant will allow us to determine the final cost of renewing Cuttagee bridge. Once determined we will be in a better place to leverage further funding to hopefully eliminate any impost on ratepayers.
“This is a highly valued and much-loved stretch of coast, and it is our role as Councillors to maintain access and a level of investment in the towns and villages from Bermagui to Tathra,” Cr Fitzpatrick said.
“Once an agreement has been signed with the funding body, Council staff will commence work immediately on the required milestone activities while informing and involving the community as the project commences.”
Images: Save Cuttagee Bridge, Bega Valley Shire Council