John Foord Bridge repairs a priority

By Jared Loughnan

A new report prepared by RMS and VicRoads has shortlisted the John Foord Bridge connecting Corowa and Wahgunyah for investment.

The Murray River Crossing Investment Priority Assessment report shows an evaluation of 32 crossings along the Murray River which assists in informing and prioritising the future investment decisions for crossings according to each of the assets relative ranking.    

The John Foord Bridge was ranked third in priority behind the Tooleybuc and Swan Hill bridges. All three bridges were recommended as a short term priority and were considered high priority and identified for immediate attention within five years.

The report states that the 122-year-old John Foord Bridge, which is heritage listed as NSW State significant and on the Victorian State Register, be retained for local traffic.

An asset maintenance plan for the bridge highlights repainting of the steel lattice span and replacement of the timber approach spans and timber piers.

The criteria used to rank the crossings was based on Higher Mass Limits connectivity, road safety, performance and asset reliability, condition of the bridge, proximity to the nearest alternate crossing and dedicated facilities for pedestrians and cyclists (for twin towns).

A new replacement Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge was ranked further down the list as a “mid-term priority” where investment is only aimed at planning for growth and likely to be only required within five to 10 years.

Moira and Federation Shire Councils have expressed their concerns about the lower priority rating for the Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge. 

Federation Council General Manager Adrian Butler said that Federation Council is very concerned that the Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge has been listed as only a medium term priority given the impending closure of the weir bridge in 2020 and the resulting extra traffic, in particular heavy vehicles, on the existing substandard bridge. 

“Whilst the John Foord Bridge at Corowa Wahgunyah is listed as a short term priority, potentially above the Yarrawonga Mulwala crossing, the report needs to be interpreted in context and the works recommended are only relatively minor in comparison to the total replacement for Yarrawonga Mulwala,” Mr Butler said.

At its monthly meeting yesterday, September 18, Federation Council agreed to engage with VicRoads, and Roads and Maritime Services NSW regarding the substantially reduced priority.

Council agreed to also undertake an estimated $30,000 cost to survey the Mulwala community, to determine their preferred bridge alignment for the crossing into Yarrawonga.

Both Federation and Moira Shire Council chiefs also expressed their disappointment of the stakeholder engagement process of the report commissioned by the road authorities to high end consultants Deloitte and SMEC. 

“RMS made contact with Federation Council to outline that a report had been completed, but to date council have not been asked to provide input or be consulted with in regards to any of the assessments,” Mr Butler said.

“Council hopes that the Yarrawonga-Mulwala bridge replacement priority can be increased to more accurately reflect the constraints of the current bridge, the growth of the area, and the current and future freight task,” he said.

Moira Shire Chief Executive Officer Mark Henderson said the report is “quite narrow” in its scope and should be used for its initial purpose, which was to guide scarce bridge maintenance funding. 

“Publishing it as a bridge replacement priority document without any chance for community engagement totally ignores the population and freight growth the bridge will need to cope with over its life,” Mr Henderson said.