Hundreds of old and unsafe timber bridges will be replaced with new modular concrete bridging systems under a $500 million program being run by the NSW Government.

In a joint announcement, Deputy Premier and Minister for Regional NSW John Barilaro and Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Paul Toole have called for applications from local councils to apply for funding under the Government’s Fixing Country Bridges program.

Mostly built in the 1940s and 50s, many of the timber bridges in New South Wales are deteriorating and reaching the end of their useful life.

Many are single lane structures in regional areas which are owned and managed by local councils.

Under the program, these will be replaced – mostly with modular concrete bridging systems.

Existing asset attributes such as the number of lanes and spans will be maintained, but improved asset replacements with features such as additional load capacity or better road alignments may be considered.

To be eligible, bridges must be located on roads which are owned and managed by local council, be identified as important to regions or communities, be in need of replacement rather than maintenance and be deliverable within program timeframes of commencement within twelve months and completion within 24 months.

Criteria for assessment include an overall condition rating and assessment, impacts of detours during construction, current load limits and the impacts of these restrictions (local bus routes, local businesses, emergency services), current susceptibility to flood and bushfire, and overall safety along with the risk of bridge failure.

The program aims support regional development and improve access to services such as schools and hospitals.

It aims to complement the $500 million Fixing Local Roads program through which councils can apply for funding to repair, patch, maintain and seal priority local roads.

In a statement, Barilaro said the program recognised that maintenance of ageing timber bridges across regional NSW is a burden for local councils and ratepayers.

“Regional councils maintain more than 1,800 timber bridges across the State, some of which are more than 80 years old and reaching the end of their life,” Barilaro said.

“We promised to help councils replace hundreds of those bridges with structures that are safer and more resilient to natural disasters like bushfire – and now we’re delivering on that commitment.”

Toole says the program will help local councils who are struggling with the burden of bridge maintenance.

“Not only will the program assist councils, it will also be a game-changer for the communities these bridges service, improving community connections to schools, towns and jobs, allowing easier movement of freight and delivering better outcomes for road safety,” he said.

Applications are open until 24 September.

 

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