Studies into the proposed third crossing of the Shoalhaven River might be completed sooner than anticipated.
The federal Assistant Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development Jamie Briggs was in the Shoalhaven on Tuesday, touring the area with Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis.
Roads and Maritime Services regional manager Renae Elrington and development manager David Corry briefed the politicians, including Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash, about the project.
“According to RMS the studies into the crossing will be done earlier than the three years as planned,” Mr Briggs said.
“Once the studies are done we will know all the details and will have a better idea how we need to fund it and we will work with the NSW government on that.”
The federal government has provided $10 million of the $12 million towards the studies.
“The bridge extension will improve productive performance of the area, and get trucks and commuters moving around the area more easily,” he said.
“The first step is to get the study done, and get approvals in place and then we can look at detailed designs.”
Questions have been raised over the future lifespan of the old iron bridge and whether it would last before a replacement could be built.
“That is an issue for the NSW government, it manages the bridge, but we don’t want a situation where you can’t get big trucks, as I understand it, across it as it is at the moment. We would look to fix it as quickly as we can within a reasonable plan and that’s what we’ve paid for in the first instance,” Mr Briggs said.
He said the project would cost over $100 million.
“It is not cheap to construct a bridge. Infrastructure in Australia is expensive but it is important to be able to boost productivity and the government is focused on productivity,” Mr Briggs said.
Mrs Sudmalis said the visit showed the government the importance of the project.
“I have spoken to Jamie Briggs’s and Warren Truss’s offices and they are going to pull the funding forward as soon as the NSW government announces the location,” she said.
“The funding is there ready to go for the studies and design intricacies, land acquisition and environmental impact studies. That will take between two and two-and-a-half years and then we can look into ways of funding the construction.”
She said negotiations over property acquisitions would be part of the next step.
“We have to see where the best economy of scales are, which acquisitions are in the best interest of public safety, which will impact most on the community. They are all part of the process from this point forward,” Mrs Sudmalis said.
Shoalhaven Mayor Joanna Gash said council couldn’t wait for a decision to finally be made on the third crossing location.
“We are certainly keen to see it happen and a lot of future planning and city growth depends on the final location being announced,” she said.
“We are anxiously waiting to find out the decision as to where it will go.”
She praised the RMS, saying
it had been “excellent including the community and council in