Four years’ work to reopen damaged stretch of road

Four years after floodwaters washed away most of a 3.6-kilometre stretch of Limbri-Weabonga Rd and damaged the Swamp Oak Creek timber bridge beyond repair, the “Road closed” signs have finally been removed and the road is at last again open to traffic.

Tamworth Regional Council engineer Bill Ash said it was one of the most challenging projects the council had undertaken.

Original estimates post-flood started at some $11 million damage, but in June 2010 the cost of repair was put at $4.5 million, after requests from the then-roads authority RTA.

Since then there have been several revisions.

The council reported this week the flood restoration works on the road had cost $2.5 million and would be met through a Natural Disaster Relief Scheme grant from the state government, but there is more work to do and more money to be spent doing it next year.

About half the width of the road was scoured away in the November 2008 major flood of Swamp Oak Creek, and the timber-built Sherrins Creek Bridge across it was irreparably damaged.

During the long assessment about how to go about repairing the damage, it was discovered the creek was home to two endangered species – the Booroolong frog and the eel-tailed catfish.

The creek creatures necessitated a detailed environmental management plan and a series of stringent soil and water management controls, to ensure there was no negative impact on the water quality. The relative remoteness of the location and geological instability of the site added to the difficulty.

Tamworth mayor Col Murray praised the innovative approach and determination of the civil engineering staff and the road construction crew, who battled technical difficulties and extensive environmental controls to get the job done.

“Having spent a good part of my professional life in the earthmoving and construction industry, I was very pleased at what council’s staff have achieved, after seeing for myself the constraints they had to work within,” he said.

“It’s a great result, which I’m sure will be very much appreciated by residents.

“The road is an important link between Limbri and Weabonga and it was essential the road be restored to its pre-flood-damaged standard.”

Council general manager Paul Bennett said the final outcome was a credit to the efforts of construction supervisor Greg Thornton and his team, senior survey and design officer Bede Lane, Mr Ash and civil construction manager Graeme McKenzie.

Mr Ash said on-site staff had at times worked under “the most trying of circumstances”.

Technical difficulties included high and sometimes unstable embankments and working within the permitted areas, which restricted work methodologies.

“This included restricting the works program to only run from June 1 to September 30, to ensure the breeding cycle of the frog was not affected,” he said.

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