Bridgewater Bridge case praised, but no political football

BRIGHTON Council has welcomed the submission of the business case for the Bridgewater Bridge to Infrastructure Australia, but says the replacement must not be used as a political football in the coming State and Federal election campaigns.

Brighton Mayor Tony Foster said the replacement of the existing bridge was so important it demanded more than just gestures and political promises of reports, investigations and funding ‘sometime in the future’.

“The presentation of the submission to Infrastructure Australia is a good first step, but now it must be backed up by firm funding commitments and a construction timetable by both the Federal and State Governments and the Opposition parties,” Cr Foster said.

“The Bridgewater Bridge is a vital link in the north-south network, and the new design must meet Tasmania’s requirements for next 100 years.

“It needs to be visionary and cater for pedestrians, cyclists and proposals for light rail, as well as motor vehicle traffic.”

Cr Foster said a vision for the future was a vital component of leadership and sadly, leadership was lacking in the latest proposal to replace the Bridgewater Bridge.

He said to leave the lift-span in place because of its so-called heritage value was ridiculous in the extreme.

“In April last year the State Government unveiled designs for a new four-lane bridge and said the State Government’s business case for Federal funding has a $576 million price tag in 2016 dollars and we are told it will be the centrepiece of the Commonwealth – State infrastructure agreement commencing in 2019.

“However, the State Government is yet to announce a firm timetable for the replacement of the bridge nor has the Commonwealth committed to provide the necessary funds.

“The existing Bridge was built in the 1940s and requires urgent replacement because of the restrictions it places on vehicles travelling on the Midland Highway, our most important road freight corridor. Add to this the almost 20,000 vehicles that cross each day, traffic bottle-necks and other issues. The bridge is seriously out of date.

“We need to design and build a new Bridgewater Bridge that will cater for Tasmania’s needs, not just now but for the next century.”

“The new bridge must have a minimum four lanes – two in each direction and it must have a pathway for pedestrian traffic, a separate and separated bicycle path and provision for a light rail track.

“It should allow for ferries, yachts and other river traffic to pass through and navigate up to New Norfolk. Rather left in place and blocking the river, the current lift-span can be dismantled and reassembled nearby should people want to appreciate its so-called heritage values.”

Cr Foster said infrastructure of benefit to future generations should not be determined on a political whim to win votes today. It should come from a bi-partisan and visionary approach that may not even be apparent to current politicians, but should be to their expert advisers.

“The Midland Highway debacle is typical of political pork-barrelling rather than a design and upgrading program to meet the needs of future generations.

“The replacement for the Bridgewater Bridge provides the opportunity for a fresh and dare I say, visionary approach from both the Liberal and Labor parties so whichever party wins government at the next election provides the best solution for Tasmania.

“We have one opportunity and it’s vital that we get it right,” Cr Foster said.