Timing of O'Briens Lane roadworks questioned

TAMWORTH Regional Council (TRC) has defended its decision to start roadworks on O’Briens Ln near Nemingha that will close the road for the duration of the Tamworth Country Music Festival.

The timing of the works, due to finish on January 25,  was a matter of trying to reduce the impact on Farrer Agricultural High School, the risk to council staff and was also a cost decision, TRC civic construction manager Graeme McKenzie said.

He said TRC was “caught between a rock and a hard place” and that it wouldn’t matter which time of year the roadworks were done – it would still affect somebody, somehow.

Mr McKenzie was responding to comments from Glenn Pittman of Dubbo who has been a festival visitor for the past 25 years.

Mr Pittman and wife Lynne, and other friends, camp at a friend’s property on Back Kootingal Rd at festival time.

He described the council as “idiots” for the timing and said the roadworks would inconvenience all road users who take that route for gigs at places like the Southgate Inn and the Australian Equine and Livestock Events Centre on the south side.

It was a road used by many festival people who stayed at Nemingha and it was a major inconvenience to take away their travelling option.

“That’s the easy access for us,” he said.

“I just can’t believe that someone on council has actually signed off to close off that road for that period when the population doubles for the country music festival.

“There’s a lot of private (land) owners who have people stopping for the duration down at the river.”

But Mr McKenzie defended the council’s decision.

“We felt it was better that way ... I can understand people being frustrated – the trip’s a bit quicker – but the actual work we’re doing requires specialised contractors,” he said.

The council would not have a single lane in operation because it was too risky for council staff and would push up costs.

“There is specialised plant required and, if we maintain the road open during that particular period with one lane open, it would go for a longer time overall and be more expensive,” Mr McKenzie said.

“We accept that there’s going to be inconvenience for people who live in the area, for people getting from one side of Tamworth to another,” Mr McKenzie said.

“Whatever time of year there was always going to be an impact. There’s good reasons for why we’ve done it now.”

McNevin’s Motel manager Ian Feldman said the work probably would not affect motel users at festival time “because we’re past where you turn off there anyway”.

But he agreed it was a “silly time of year to do it”.

Mr McKenzie said drivers should avoid the area and allow more time for travel.

The condition of the roadway has deteriorated dramatically in recent years after being saturated by periodic flooding.

Mr McKenzie said the work would cost about $700,000 to complete and the bridge near Cross Park Rd has already been widened as part of the work.

Residents of O’Briens Ln and Cross Park Rd will still have access while the work is being done.

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