THE state government has announced $3.5 million in funding to progress an upgrade of the Emu Creek bridge near Uralla.
Yesterday Roads Minister Duncan Gay travelled to Uralla to announce the funding, which will progress the upgrade to the construction stage.
The Emu Creek bridge is about 3.75km south of Bundarra on Thunderbolts Way and connects Uralla with Inverell via Bundarra.
Mr Gay said the Thunderbolts Way, including the bridge, was a key regional transport and freight route for the people and businesses of the Northern Tablelands.
During flood events, the existing low-level crossing at Emu Creek blocks road freight traffic along the Thunderbolts Way.
Mr Gay said the funding allocation was a “smart and sensible choice” for a community and other stakeholders who had been seeking a solution for more than 75 years.
Uralla deputy mayor Bob Crouch agreed and thanked Mr Gay on behalf of the Emu Creek Bridge Committee for raising the profile of the bridge-replacement issue.
“Whenever the Emu Crossing bridge was closed, the event had a major impact on residents of Bundarra,” Cr Crouch said.
“The high level of community interest played an important role in the Emu Crossing bridge replacement submission.” State records suggest the then-Gostwyk Shire Council began to appeal for help to replace the low-level bridge as early as 1925.
Uralla Shire Council will contribute $100,000 to the project, which will involve upgrading the bridge to two lanes and should provide a one-in-50-year flood immunity.
“This is great news for locals, country motorists and heavy-vehicle operators alike,” Mr Gay said.
“Emu Crossing Bridge is the only direct transport and freight route between the towns of Bundurra, Bingara, Warialda and Inverell to Armidale, including the Armidale Airport.”
Mr Gay said it is also the most direct and quickest route for the people of the Northern Tablelands to Newcastle.
“The upgrade proves the NSW government is serious about road safety and accessibility,” he said.
“The crossing is low-level and is often closed to traffic during even minor flood events.”
At present when flooding occurs there are no local alternative or detour routes available to motorists.
The closest detour is 95km away, via Torryburn and Gwydir River roads, and presents problems for everything from residents to emergency services and the local school bus.