Bridge tour idea collapses

A PUSH to save Tweed's ageing and deteriorating timber bridges has failed.

Greens councillor Katie Milne has backed down from her bid to have the bridges used as tourist attractions instead of being replaced.

Cr Milne has compromised on saving the bridges with a request for council staff to “soften the modern feel of concrete bridges” and prepare a report on how to maintain as many timber ones as possible.

She backed away from a plea at Tuesday's council meeting to create a possible “timber bridge trail” for tourists, complimenting a current timber village art trail, after staff pointed out the financial, safety and environmental costs of abandoning a policy of replacing the bridges.

“From an environmental point of view we should not be wasting resources on timber bridges which have a short life span,” said Patrick Knight, the council's director of operations and engineering.

Mr Knight said thick and round timbers for bridge girders and sawn timbers suitable for bridge decking were becoming increasing hard and costly to obtain.

Yesterday, council workers were hard at it building a new concrete bridge on the previous site of one of the most dangerous old timber bridges which they demolished late last year at Perch Creek, west of Uki.

And council staff released several dramatic photos taken of damage to an old timber bridge at Cedar Creek off Byrill Creek Road.

The bridge collapsed last year when a heavy truck tried to cross it. The photos had not been released earlier for legal reasons.

Mr Knight referred to the bridge's collapse at Tuesday's council meeting, stressing the need to replace many bridges for safety reasons.

Cr Milne raised the issue when staff recommended the council accept 50 per cent funding from the NSW Roads and Traffic Authority for replacement of two old timber bridges on the Murwillumbah Kyogle Road.

That came on top of council success in winning $885,000 worth of grants to replace three other bridges - Perch Creek bridge, the O'Brien's No.1 bridge and the Snake Creek bridge - on the road.

Staff said the offer of funds to help replace the two extra bridges next financial year was part of a three-year program for the replacement of timber bridges on regional roads.

While bringing forward the replacement of the two extra bridges would place a strain on council finances, they said $610,000 in extra funding would be lost if it was refused and the funding program did not continue.

A council spokesperson said timber bridges also did not comply with today's load standards.

She said loads that bridges were expected to carry were far greater than those in the 1940s when many of the timber bridges were built.

“Timber bridges are also maintenance hungry and have to be regularly inspected for termites and rot. In comparison, concrete bridges require minimal maintenance.”

The spokesperson said special efforts were taken to make modern bridges environmentally friendly - in one case providing roosting spots for bats.

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