Roads and Maritime Services is considering yet another option for the Nowra Bridge project, after growing concern from the community about the sustainability of the current plans.
After consultation with the community, the Shoalhaven Business Chamber has developed a new plan for the bridge, which includes a dedicated grade separated flyover, linking Illaroo Road to the southbound flow of traffic.
Shoalhaven Business Chamber president Jemma Tribe said the new design was prompted by the community’s concern over the sustainability of the current design.
“People have been telling us for months they don’t just want bridge replaced, they want intersections looked at, because they are causing people concern everyday,” she said.
“The bridge is a significant choke point, and it’s adding significant delays to peoples’ journeys. We want to make sure we have a better outcome at the end of that.”
The chamber revealed the new option at a meeting with South Coast MP Shelley Hancock, the RMS, and council representatives on Thursday.
Current plans for the bridge were expected to completed by mid-2025, with the expectation of servicing the community until 2046, but the RMS has agreed to investigate the flyover option, and its environmental, heritage and financial impacts on the overall project.
The NSW and Australian governments have each contributed $155 million each to the project, but the business chamber expects the new plan would cost $30 million more.
“That’s only 10 per cent more than the original coast and will give the bridge another 30 years [from the completion date],” she said.
“We think getting it right the first time is essential.”
But Mrs Hancock believes the new option could cost up to $100 million more than the RMS’ current plan.
“I think $30 million is absolutely a gross underestimate,” she said.
“Time delays also need to be factored into costing so if I were to have a reasonable guess I’d say it would be around $100 million.”
Mrs Hancock said she was happy for the RMS to investigate the new flyover option, but if it were seen as viable, wasn’t sure she or the federal government could secure extra funds.
“Gareth [Ward] and I would certainly try our very best,” she said.
“But we can’t guarantee it.”
Ms Tribe said the plans for the flyover would not impact any more homes on Illaroo Road than already planned by the RMS, but said land would need to be acquired from Bryce’s Farm on Bolong Road.
“We would attempt to minimise the impact on them as much as possible,” she said.
While Mrs Hancock said the meeting to discuss the plan was positive, she wanted to see a plan agreed upon so work could begin on improving traffic flow for the region.
“The RMS has already already considered 19 options for grade separation,” she said.
“We have a bridge that’s costing a fortune to maintain and it’s got a high crash rate.
“This [new option] will have delays on the project and I just want to see the problem solved.”
The RMS told the meeting that a meeting would be convened next year after the project had been assessed.
Ms Tribe said the business chamber, just like Mrs Hancock, was keen to get things started.
“We want to move as quickly as possible,” she said.
“What we are saying isn’t anything new, we’ve been lobbying with council, bus companies, community members and loads of businesses for grade separation to be properly considered and we are pleased it’s finally getting the consideration it really needs.”