THE Yarrawonga-Mulwala replacement bridge could be at least another decade away after being listed as only a “medium term” investment priority in a report prepared for Victorian and NSW roads authorities.
The $100 million-plus project was revealed 15 years ago when Murray Darling Basin Authority first flagged plans to shut the Lake Mulwala weir bridge in 2020.
But it’s at risk of falling off the radar with six other river crossings listed as higher priorities even though traffic volumes, including large trucks, will increase significantly in Yarrawonga’s main street resulting from the weir bridge closure.
Deep division exists on the preferred lake crossing with the Victorian Labor government backing the grey route.
Moira and Federation councils are both concerned with the lower priority rating.
“We think the report should have been a draft for public comment as its conclusions on the Yarrawonga- Mulwala bridge are not supported by its own data when you compare lane widths and traffic volumes,” Moira chief executive Mark Henderson said.
“The primary purpose of the report is to prioritise investment in bridges to support future freight demand and higher mass limit trucks and that’s exactly what we’ve been saying the grey route can’t accommodate.
“Maybe this shift in priority will enable RMS and VicRoads to re-think what the Yarrawonga-Mulwala freight task will look like in 50 years’ time and design an alignment that can cope with it without destroying the connection to the lake.”
The John Foord bridge at Corowa is listed as a short-term investment priority, but Federation Council general manager Adrian Butler said works were “relatively minor” compared to a new bridge over Lake Mulwala.
“Whilst the John Foord bridge is listed as a short-term priority, the report needs to be interpreted in context and the works recommended are only relatively minor in comparison to the total replacement for Yarrawonga-Mulwala,” he said.
“Council hopes that the Yarrawonga-Mulwala bridge replacement priority can be increased to more accurately reflect the constraints of the current bridge, the growth of the area, and the current and future freight task.”
Federation Council hasn’t re-visited bridge crossing issue since the merger of Corowa and Urana shires.
The former Corowa Shire was a strong advocate for the grey route, but the Moira Shire is firmly behind the green route.
“Council is very concerned that the Yarrawonga-Mulwala bridge has been listed as only a medium term priority given the impending closure of the weir bridge in 2020 and the resulting extra traffic, in particular heavy vehicles, on the existing substandard bridge,” Mr Butler said.
“Council will be considering this further at an upcoming council meeting and corresponding further with both RMS and Vicroads along with Moira Shire on this issue.
The MDBA was approached by The Border Mail to confirm the weir bridge was closing in 2020 before being referred to Goulburn Murray Water.
GMW has not responded.
VicRoads, which is the lead agency in the Yarrawonga-Mulwala bridge project, has defended the lower priority rating.
“The Yarrawonga-Mulwala Bridge assessment found it is in fair condition and meets a range of other criteria,” regional director Nicki Kyriakou said.
“We know it’s an important connection and we’ll continue working closely with our NSW counterparts to ensure it’s safe and reliable for local communities and visitors.”
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