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Load limits hurting business

TABLELANDS Regional Council’s Division 6 Councillor Owen Byrnes put forward a motion for a report at last Thursday’s council meeting which outlines methods that can be utilised to increase load limits that have been imposed on certain TRC bridges.

The motion comes after an independent review and assessment of 26 bridges in the TRC region identified the need to reduce speed and load limits on several bridges to ensure safety and extend the useful life of the infrastructure whilst rectification works can be planned.

It’s not good news for a number of primary producers in the region, who are heavily reliant on these bridges to transport their freight and produce.

Cr Byrnes noted how such restrictions will impact business owners’ productivity and profitability if increases to the load limits aren’t made soon.

“Council have some very difficult decisions to make regarding ageing infrastructure,” he said.

“It has become very distressful to property owners with regards to imposed load limits on various bridges in the TRC region.

“These restrictions have the ability to cripple business; particularly in the dairy, livestock and agricultural industries.

“In some cases, these bridges have gone from carrying fully-loaded trucks one day to having 8 tonne restrictions the next.”

Bridges with some of the harshest restrictions imposed include Bew Road and Blunder Park which saw load limit changes of 30 tonnes to 8 tonne – while Wooroora Road’s previous 35 tonne load limit is now just 6 tonne.

In addition to the load limits, there has also been a 5 km/hr speed limit enforced.

Despite the enormity of the issue for a number of businesses within the TRC’s boundaries, the motion was rejected as Cr Byrnes was the only member of council to vote in favour; much to the dismay of the members of the community in attendance.

Whilst outlining his discontent with the load limits, Cr Byrnes’ motion included six points to rectify a number of the issues currently being experienced.

The six points are as follows:

1. What action can be taken to fast-track rectification of effected bridges?

2. What methodology was taken to evaluate these bridges and are the reports available for the general public?

3. How does State Government Main Roads monitor bridges, some of which were built in the 1960s and 70s when load suspensions were max. GCM of 38 tonnes – whereas they now carry up to and beyond 65 tonne GCM? Can TRC adopt the State’s Risk strategy?

4. Can new bridge upgrades be carried out to accommodate modern transport weight as outlined in the PBS? Also excess mass and dimension guidelines’ current 44 tonne limit may not be suitable for the future expectations.

5. With regard to the Good Governance and under Belcarra Reforms, Council may need to ensure that individuals and companies who are involved in assessments that apply load restrictions do not have a conflict of interest if they are awarded contracts to design and project manage upgrades.

6. To demonstrate the effectiveness and efficiency of Council to the general public, the following information needs to be presented separately for each of these projects – including their awarded contract sum, finished contract sum including variations, awarded design contract sum, finished design contract sum including variations, awarded project management sum and finished project management sum including variations for:

• Leslie Creek Bridge
• Tully Falls Road Bridge
• Cashmere Crossing Causeway

TRC Mayor Joe Paronella said remedial works will be considered as part of the prioritisation of future budget and funding submissions in line with council’s Transport Strategy when adopted.

“Council has an extensive number of bridges and major culverts across its road transportation network with structures of varying construction types and physical condition,” he said.

“As with all major assets, Council is developing asset management plans to proactively plan for the maintenance, renewal and upgrade of our ageing infrastructure.”

Cr Paronella said the community does not have the financial capacity to replace all bridges currently subject to load limits.

Changes to bridge load limits include:
• Bew Road where it crosses a minor watercourse, changes from 30t to 8t
• Blunder Park Road where it crosses Blunder Creek, changes from 30t to 8t
• Go Tack Road where it crosses Coolabbi Creek, changes from 25t to 20t
• Lindsay Road where it crosses Johnstone River, changes from 25t to 10t
• Mary Street where it crosses the Johnstone River, changes from 30t to 8t
• Merragallen Road where it crosses Willliams Creek, changes from 15t to 10t
• Morganbury Road where it crosses a channel, changes from 25t to 20t
• Odyssey Close where it crosses a minor watercourse, changes from 25t to 10t
• Webster Road where it crosses Wondecla Creek, changes from 25t to 8t
• Wooroora Road – Millstream where it crosses a gully at Wooroora Station, changes from 35t to 6t
• Silver Valley Road where it crosses Woolamin Creek, changes from 15t to 5t
• Glue Pot Road where it crosses North Wondecla Creek, changes from 15t to 10t

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