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From the sale of Poles and Wires to a four lane bridge

The $274 million Batemans Bay major work started in early 2019 however the idea started long before in the 1990's when the powers that be at the time sat down to consider the crystal ball and determine the traffic dynamics twenty years ahead. On March 6th, 2015, then Member for Bega and New South Wales Treasurer Andrew Constance, that if re-elected he would duplicate the Batemans Bay bridge even though it was yet to be assessed by the Roads and Maritime Services with no details of the scale or cost of the proposal. None the less he promised $110 million to develop a new bridge over the Clyde River.

The 2016 RTA Princes Highway Corridor Strategy said that the old Clyde River Bridge was unable to carry HML loading, concealed corrosion in critical elements, poor substructure condition, severe deterioration of the counterweight and poor condition of the painting system. Both it and the Moruya Bridge were rated poor with the strategy saying of the Moruya Bridge that "there are various spalled areas on concrete in critical elements that needed to be repaired, cracks along the northbound and southbound footpath, scouring at pier 1 that needs to be addressed. The painting system on the steel girders is in poor condition as well requiring prompt attention to arrest further deterioration. Even though the bridge is in poor condition, the bridge is sound to carry traffic loading, as the majority of the deterioration is not in critical structural elements." The RTA Princes Highway Corridor Strategy said "To address the identified challenges of maintaining safe and stable traffic flow in urban centres, providing access for High Productivity Vehicles to the entire corridor, improve road safety performance, improve road alignment, lane width and pavement condition, the following short, medium and long term priorities have been identified: Included in the 2016 short term priorities was the commencement of planning into the renewal or replacement of the bridge over the Clyde River at Batemans Bay. It was recognised that the Federal Government commitment to upgrading dual carriageway of the notorious Pacific Highway would see its end in 2020. Via lobbying of the South East Area Transport Strategy and the RTA Princes Highway Corridor Strategy the upgrades that we now see for the Princes Highway have been on the cards for some time and, irrespective of who was in government, the vision of the RMS to improve the South East would go ahead, one way or another. On Monday, October 31, 2016, then Roads Minister Duncan Gay confirmed funding for the multi-million dollar infrastructure project during a visit to Batemans Bay .

He said the green light for the project depended on funds from the sale of NSW electricity assets, which Premier Mike Baird had confirmed the previous week.

“We’ve now got a large part of the money locked in (from) the sale of poles and wires, but we have to scope up the bridge on what it will be and where it will go,” Mr Gay said at the time. In June 2017 it was announced that the NSW government had set aside more than $300 million for the new bridge over the Clyde River at Batemans Bay and the new Nelligen bridge, funded from the sale of Poles and Wires. The NSW government had netted nearly $3 billion after finalising the sale of the state's "poles and wires" electricity assets selling Endeavour Energy. Selling off the assets to fund major infrastructure projects was the state government's centrepiece policy at the 2015 state election. In 2017 $15.9 million of that year's budget would be used to plan, investigate and design the best options to replace both bridges with the line item in the budget for the Batemans Bay bridge was $220 to $240 million alone. At the time Roads, Maritime and Freight Minister Melinda Pavey said: “Traffic along these roads is only going to get busier, especially between Sydney, Canberra and the South Coast.

“We could either keep throwing more and more money at maintaining bridges built for the 1950s and 60s, or we could set up the infrastructure for the 21st Century and beyond.

“Using modern materials and design standards, these new structures will be built to have a 100-year lifespan. The new bridges will be far superior to those they are replacing in terms of safety and strength.” Ms Pavey said. Issues with the existing bridge included an annual maintenance cost of $1 million, no access for larger trucks and a lift span that caused traffic delays and prevented reliable access across the Clyde River. In June 2017, Roads and Maritime Services brought together project team members, technical specialists, key stakeholders and community members to participate in a Value Management Workshop to assess a shortlist of three options for a new Batemans Bay Bridge. Participants of the workshop agreed to project objectives, identified broad community issues, assessed technical information and a range of design options before recommendations for a new bridge were made. The recommendation from the workshop was to proceed with a proposed route to the west of the current bridge, as this option met the long term essential requirements for a new river crossing. In 2018 John Holland was chosen by Roads & Maritime Services for the project. Work then started on the detailed design, drawing on a report that reviewed all community feedback received during the display of the concept design. The new bridge was be designed to provide improved functionality including: • four lanes, two each way, to reduce traffic delays crossing the bridge • improve traffic flow at nearby intersections including the Kings Highway • greater access to, and improved use of the Clyde River for commercial and recreational vessels of a greater height with no impact to motorists • improved safety with a shared pedestrian and cycle path • improved access for freight vehicles up to 26 metres in length and no height restrictions It was agreed that the existing bridge was to be demolished and removed to enable river traffic of a greater height unobstructed access to the Clyde River and Batemans Bay.

It was noted that leaving the bridge in place as a pedestrian bridge or other tourist feature would require the bridge to remain closed and in need of ongoing costly maintenance of up to $1 million per year. The RMS said that this would prevent higher water vessels from gaining access under the bridge which is a key benefit of the proposed new bridge. It was also agreed that removal of the existing bridge would also offer improved public access to the foreshore on the north and south riverbanks providing opportunities for new community spaces. A Foreshore Management Committee was formed and tasked with assisting in the design of the new foreshore. A primary concern of both the committee, members of the Batemans Bay Chamber of Commerce and Tourism and a handful of councillors was the intention to remove the access from the new bridge to the Clyde Street foreshore. This access was considered critical to the financial wellbeing of the tourism driven quarter of the CBD. To remove it was something that had not been measured and requests for a CBD Master Plan or relevant Traffic Management Strategy that modeled the expected changes in traffic flow were not forthcoming as Council had no Master Plan nor had conducted any modelling. It remains of concern to foreshore businesses who are now left to wait to discover the financial impacts that the off-ramp removal will bring with all CBD traffic now having to enter via North Street or traverse Perry Street from Beach Road.

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