At least one Cowra Shire Councillor believes the council has lost its focus during consideration of a new low level bridge for the town.
“We’ve lost the focus of replacing a low level bridge with another little bridge,” Cr Ian Whitty said at Cowra Shire Council’s November meeting.
“I know everyone wants to get trucks off the road but to me it’s just about putting another little bridge up for local traffic,” Cr Whitty said during debate at November’s Council general meeting, a sentiment not agreed on by most of his colleagues.
Cr Peter Wright said he believed council should be looking at replacing the low level under the Wooden Bridge Replacement program.
Cr Peter Wright said he supported another crossing but is concerned “it is going to be a major cost”.
“We have a lot of programs with a major cost backing up.
“The RMS with our meeting on site said, this is a local road and isn’t part of our considerations’,” Cr Wright said.
He also expressed doubts over whether council would be able to keep the current low level bridge for pedestrian access.
“We’ve been told we could lose (the current low level) in a major flood,” Cr Wright said.
“This is going to take more than two years and two years might be the life of what we’ve got there.
“If we replace like with like with what’s there we’d have a very good pedestrian access bridge there.
“We need to clearly identify this is going to take longer than the existing time frame might be for the bridge.
“If the RMS doesn’t come on board it will be another pipe dream sitting on the shelf,” Cr Wright said of the plans.
Later in the meeting he attempted to move a motion that the council seek funding under the Wooden Bridges Replacement Program if there was not a “satisfactory” outcome from a meeting with the RMS.
His motion received no support and lapsed.
“I disagree that this is just about a low level bridge,” Cr Miller said.
“The (current) low level bridge’s future will be considered but this isn’t the whole focus of this resolution,” Cr Miller said of the council decision to conduct investigations into three possible routes for a new low level bridge crossing.
Two of the options cross the Lachlan River from Redfern Street, one of these going through the tennis club.
The third option would be on the opposite side of the Lachlan River bridge to the current low level crossing.
“We’ll endeavour to give certainty to the tennis club as soon as we can,” he said in regards to one of the options remaining on the table which travels directly through the current tennis complex in West Cowra.
“We do need to consider not only the local traffic but also some of the heavy vehicle traffic to take congestion off the bridge and Kendal Street if at all possible, this will serve a whole of purposes if we get to the right option,” he added.
Cr Judi Smith said she didn’t believe two of the options still under consideration (the tennis club and adjacent bridge options) were worthy of future investigations but she would not be voting against them at this stage on that account.
“Speed, although not speed at all costs, is of the essence,” Cr Judi Smith said.
“We have a low level bridge with a limited life span and we need to make sure that we have all our plans in place well before the end of that life span.
“We are about more than replacing like for like, we are about replacing with better provided we can do it within our economic parameters, given how this town was originally planned and the low level and high level bridge were originally put is not where we would put them if we were starting from scratch.
“There is no one solution that we can identify as being absolutely perfect.
“We need to make sure we tick as many boxes as possible,” Cr Smith said.
Mayor Bill West said “it would be irresponsible of us not to replace the low level” knowing it is going to fail.
“This is about traffic issues and how we can plan for the future.
“It needs to give consideration to what’s going to happen down the track and our current problems.
Council was expected to meeting with the RMS this week and Cr West said it would be raising where it at seeking their comments.
“There comment on this is very important in terms of where our next step might be,” Cr West said.
Cr Ray Walsh told the meeting council should be looking for the best route possible for a new crossing before worrying too much about “cost at this stage”.
“The traffic problems are only going to get worse, and when I say traffic problems I mean the very dangerous problems at the foot of the bridge with heavy vehicles.
“It’s only a matter of time before something happens there.
“I’ve seen cars almost squashed being on the inside lane because of trucks going wide trying to get around the corner.
“We do need to keep this moving.
“We’ve seen already the affect the low level water bridge being under way for six weeks had on the town,” Cr Walsh said.
Cr Ruth Fagan said the recent works on the high level bridge highlighted the traffic problems.
“Don’t believe we quite have it right we need to look further at the options. The advice of the RMS will be absolutely critical and it might not be up to us in the end,” Cr Fagan said.
“We’re moving in the right direction and we have had fairly robust debate,” Cr Michael Nobes said moving the motion that Council investigate the three options left under consideration.