ROADS and Maritime Services (RMS) has started detailed inspections of the 132-year-old heritage listed Nowra Bridge.
Engineers have begun an extensive series of tests to determine the structural state of thebridge, amid fears it is nearing the end of its economic life.
RMS teams are using a cherry picker mounted on a barge to inspect below and above the bridge deck to identify the location, extent and severity of corrosion.
The inspections started Monday on the northern end of the bridge and will be carried out on weekdays between 7am and 3pm and on weekends from 8am to 1pm, weather permitting, until they reach the southern end.
Work is expected to be completed by March 23 and access for marine and road traffic is being maintained at all times during the inspections.
The bridge, which crosses the Shoalhaven River, was fabricated in America, shipped to Nowra in pieces, and after an extended period of construction was opened in 1881.
There have been concerns about the long-term ability of the 343-metre bridge to bear the load it is now carrying with the amount of traffic that uses the bridge on a daily basis.
The NSW government has announced that AECOM Consultants has been awarded the tender to carry out a study into the best possible location for a replacement of the southbound Shoalhaven River Bridge.
The government allocated $1 million this financial year for AECOM Consultants to carry out a strategic site options assessment for the replacement of the southbound crossing on the Princes Highway at Nowra.
The study will consolidate investigations and studies previously carried out and will complete extra investigations to provide enough information to start considering options.