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  • Writer's pictureThe Beagle

Still no sign of a Highway Corridor strategy or of any visionaries

The Kings Highway and Batemans Bay bypass were both on the SEATS agenda when the South East Australian Transport Strategy (SEATS) group held its quarterly meeting in Batemans Bay last week. As well as transport issues outside of the Eurobodalla delegates heard reports from RMS Southern NSW outlining developments and the progress of priority transport projects such as new bridges at Batemans Bay and Nelligen. The delegates inspected projects including the South Batemans Bay Link Road. SEATS Executive Officer John Duscher said the meeting was informative and productive. “SEATS represents an independent voice for transport in south-east Australia that is respected at all levels of government. "We have a significant role in identifying and prioritising transport projects and then advocating to see projects are planned, funded and achieved. “Within Eurobodalla, it is essential the NSW Government provide the funding and get on with making the link from the Princes Highway to the South Batemans Bay Link Road. This bypass is key to stimulating and servicing $800 million in development and growth around Batemans Bay. “We’re also advocating for the NSW Government to fund the progressive upgrade of the Kings Highway and build on the good work done to date. With Canberra growing from 350,000 to 500,000 people, Canberra airport opening up to international markets, and freight coming from Goulburn to the coast via the Kings Highway, this key east-west link must continue to be upgraded to meet the obvious economic and social needs of the region.”

Catalina resident, Allan Brown, has been watching the progress of discussions regarding improvements to the Princes Highway corridor for the last two decades. He was pleased to see the Notice of Motion raised by Councillor Constable on February 14th 2017 that requested the General Manager: invite the Hon. Melinda Pavey MP in her capacity as NSW Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight, and the Hon. Andrew Constance MP in his dual capacity as the Local Member and NSW Minister for Transport & Infrastructure,the Hon. John Barilaro MP, in his capacity as Deputy Premier, Minister for Regional NSW and Member for Monaro and the Hon. Bronwyn Taylor MLC, in her capacity as Parliamentary Secretary for Deputy Premier and Southern NSW,together with the RMS Southern Region Manager Ms Renae Elrington to a meeting with Councillors and the necessary Council staff, as soon as it can be arranged, to engage in a discussion about the vital importance of: i) advancing the upgrading the Princes Highway and Kings Highway, noting the critical role these highways have in servicing Eurobodalla Shire’s residents, businesses and transport needs, the greater South Coast and Canberra regions and the international market place via Canberra airport. ii) developing longer term plans for the future redevelopment of the Princes Highway and Kings Highway to meet the medium and long term needs. (The Motion on being put was declared CARRIED) It is disappointing that this meeting has not yet taken place. It is not known if the Eurobodalla General Manager has extended the invitation or organised a meeting as instructed by the Councillors. SEATS delegates were not aware that a meeting of the key NSW Government representatives had been requested. The Eurobodalla Shire has several problems with highway traffic matters particularly the Princes Highway. Constructed in 1956, the Batemans Bay Bridge is over 280 metres long and features a lift span to allow water traffic upstream.The lift span causes significant traffic problems as a result of opening the bridge twice daily. This however is a problem easily solved by limiting access beyond the bridge to the west and by the use of a low profile ferry meaning opening of the bridge would be virtually eliminated. When the bridge is opened the Princes Highway traffic can be queued for long distances. In the summer peak months this creates a major traffic problem. The opened bridge can also create unnecessary problems for emergency service vehicles needing to service the northern side of the Clyde River. The RMS says that due to the age and condition of the structure, elements of the bridge require ongoing and expensive maintenance.This work is required to reduce the likelihood of lift span faults and to reduce traffic congestion and delays.The bridge currently has heavy vehicle restrictions due to the narrow width of the road. In recent years the opening mechanism for the bridge has also seen periodic failures which can result in traffic queues in excess of 10 kilometres. In addition to the failing opening mechanisms is the rumour that there is concrete cancer in the pylons that justifies a new bridge. The solutions to date that have been discussed publicly are 1. On November 22nd, 2016 Councillor Brown and Councillor Pollock put up a motion THAT:1.Council convene an urgent meeting with Roads and Maritime Services, Batemans Marine Park and NSW Fisheries and any other relevant parties with a view to establishing appropriate NSW Government owned wharf facilities on the western side of the Batemans Bay Bridge, thereby significantly reducing the need for consistent and disruptive opening of the Batemans Bay Bridge.2.Council urge the Roads and Maritime Services to engage with the current users of the waterway to ensure the needs of operators are taken into account in developing solutions.(The Motion on being put was declared CARRIED) It has been strongly argued however that the idea of building a new wharf on the western side of the bridge is ill conceived as there would be inadequate parking for tour buses and visitors, no toilet availability and it would come at considerable expense. 2. In a media release of Friday, 3 March 2017 Member for Bega, Andrew Constance said: “A new bridge will improve travel times and freight access and reduce the ongoing maintenance costs associated with the existing bridge, but my number one priority is improving the safety of residents in the event of an emergency.” Mr Constance said the proposed new bridge would replace the existing bridge, which was built in 1956 and requires ongoing maintenance due to the age and complexity of the structure. The result from the geotechnical studies (being carried out now) will be used to determine the preferred option for the proposed bridge, which will be made available to the public later this year to provide the community with an opportunity to comment on the preferred options report. Minister Pavey said the existing bridge across the Clyde River caters to around 14,000 vehicles each day and up to 22,000 in peak holiday times. “The proposed new bridge would improve freight access by allowing higher semi-trailers and B-doubles up to 26 metres in length to cross the river. It appears, from the above media release, that the proposal is to replace the sixty year old bridge with a brand new bridge. Fortunately the Batemans Bay community managed to just squeak in a 60th birthday Bash for the bridge. It has not gone unnoticed that in February 2015 Bega MP and then NSW Treasurer Andrew Constance pledged $110 million to duplicate the Batemans Bay Bridge. Mr Constance made the announcement at his official election campaign launch in Batemans Bay saying the money needed would come from the capital works budget and from the poles and wires sale. As yet not many in the community know what is in store for the Batemans Bay bridge. Andrew Constance spoke of it being duplicated in 2015 Then in a more recent media release he talks of it being replaced. We hear that the geotechnical studies being conducted at the moment to investigate the rock surface below the sand on which to anchor the new bridge is just finding sand. Old timers remember when the bridge didn't go up and down for the ferry twice a day because the ferry didn't have a top deck. Old timers are suggesting that the bridge be welded shut in a down position, concrete cancers dealt with., structural bracing added for increased loads and the ferry operators told to get rid of their top deck.

Elsewhere on the Princes Highway there is also a need to have a good look and begin to pull together some long term strategies and commitments. This is why Councilor Constable moved his Notice of Motion raised by Councillor Constable on February 14th 2017. Some Councillors and staff might think that this think-tank of corridor strategy has been achieved in a piecemeal way by various meetings however the resolution for a joint meeting, in the same room at the same time has not been set nor attended to. Outside of the Batemans Bay Bridge issue the rest of the Princes Highway corridor through Eurobodalla has issues to address. In Moruya, as a result of the traffic lights and the two right turns at the Moruya Bridge there are significant traffic flow problems. Mogo, Moruya, Bodalla and Narooma townships are also major contributors of the Princes Highway congestion problems in the Eurobodalla Shire. Goods being transported from Sydney and Melbourne via the Princes Highway are financially disadvantaged as well because of restrictions on the sorts of transports able to use the Princes Highway in the Eurobodalla Shire. Several years ago a “B” double trial was conducted though the Shire, Council records will show that weights were not the problem. It is time to look to the future in relation to the Princes Highway and it's present efficiency’s, which clearly are very poor, and look to the future 40+ years and plan a new Princes Highway corridor that can service the Eurobodalla Shire more effectively than is the case at the present time. In June 2017, Roads and Maritime Services will conduct a Value Management Workshop planned to involve community and stakeholders in the future of the Batemans Bay Bridge bringing together project team members, technical specialists, key stakeholders and community members to participate in, and assess, options for a new Batemans Bay Bridge. SEATS are also looking at the Princes Highway and the following is an extract from their Strategic Transport Network for South-eastern Australia Supporting our Economic Future 2016 Princes Highway B-double Access, Eurobodalla Shire, Bridge Structure and Road alignment upgrades Several upgrades are required along the Princes Highway south of Nowra to enable it to be used by B-double vehicles. The combination of structural problems on several bridges and poor alignment make it impossible for B-double sized vehicles to travel to the Eurobodalla. Currently a combination of structural and alignment issues along this length of the Princes Highway prevent it’s use by these larger vehicles. Structural issues on several bridges within the Shoalhaven LGA need rectifying. The bridges within the Eurobodalla include the Clyde River Bridge at Batemans Bay, Tuross River Bridge at Bodalla and Narooma Bridge (separate Priority Project) need to be assessed and rectified. Lengths of poor alignment such as the northern approach to Narooma Bridge create safety hazards. A full study is necessary to determine the required upgrades to extend the B-double route south of Nowra. This study should also recommend appropriate locations for coupling/decoupling facilities to allow these larger trucks to remove section of their load before entering the CBD areas of towns such as Batemans Bay, Moruya and Narooma to service businesses. Estimated Cost: Unknown – further investigation required

NOTE: Comments were TRIALED - in the end it failed as humans will be humans and it turned into a pile of merde; only contributed to by just a handful who did little to add to the conversation of the issue at hand. Anyone who would like to contribute an opinion are encouraged to send in a Letter to the Editor where it might be considered for publication

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