Wednesday, May 9, 2018

Lots of water under this half-billion dollar bridge

An artist's impression of the proposed $576m Bridgewater
Bridge alongside the existing structure which will remain.
NEARLY 15 years after the federal funding to replace the Bridgewater Bridge was diverted by state and local government, new funds have at last been allocated by the Federal Government.

Liberal Senator Richard Colbeck touched on this history earlier in the week when announcing that $461 million towards the new bridge would be provided in last night's Federal Budget.

"Funding was previously allocated towards this in the early 2000s by a previous Coalition Government but then re-phased by the then state Labor Government," Senator Colbeck told assembled media alongside the existing bridge on Monday morning.

In 2005 the then State Government, with Local Government agreement, diverted the bridge funds to the "Northern Approaches to Hobart" project, which included the Brighton Transport Hub and the Brighton Bypass. Despite State Government assurances that the existing bridge would last another 25 years, millions have since been spent keeping it operational.

Since then the cost of the new bridge has more than doubled, with the Federal Government last night allocating $461 million for a replacement project that Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff says he would like to see started as soon as possible. The State Government will contribute $115m to the total cost of $576m.

Senator Colbeck said the Bridgewater Bridge project would be the state's single biggest infrastructure project since the dam-building days of the 1960s and 70s, and would support 200 jobs during construction.

Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff, left, and Senator Richard
Colbeck in discussion near the Bridgewater Bridge on Monday.
"The current Bridgewater Bridge was built in the 1940s and requires replacement as it places height, mass and width restrictions on vehicles traveling on the Midland Hwy, which is Tasmania’s key north-south road link and most important road freight corridor," Senator Colbeck said.

"The current bridge sees an average of 18,500 vehicles per day, bottle-necks traffic to two lanes, and the lifting mechanism is wearing and subject to breakdown. The new bridge will be sited downriver of the existing bridge, on land already identified as suitable. Once built, it will enable pedestrian and cyclist facilities. Rail access will be maintained via the existing bridge.

"It should never be forgotten, the Federal Liberal Government originally funded a new Bridgewater Bridge way back in the early 2000s, only to have the money redirected to other projects by the then state Labor Government,” Senator Colbeck said.

State Opposition infrastructure spokesman David O'Bryne MHA said the funding news was welcome but the Liberal Party had a poor track record on delivering. “While Labor welcomes investment in infrastructure after years of neglect by both state and federal Liberals, it would be more reassuring to see an actual infrastructure plan rather than splashy announcements that may not even happen," Mr O'Byrne said.

“Let’s not forget the federal and state Liberals’ promises for a Hobart airport roundabout that has yet to happen, and Liberal promises for fantasy bridges and underground bus malls during the state election. No sod has been turned on these projects so it is reasonable to be sceptical about today’s announcement. The Bridgewater Bridge is too important to all Tasmanians to be used as a political football," Mr O'Byrne said on Monday.

Mr Rockliff said the bridge was an essential part of the transport network in southern Tasmania. "One of my first actions as Minister for Infrastructure was to write to my Commonwealth counterpart, Deputy Prime Minister McCormack, outlining the crucial importance of this project," he said.

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