No more timber bridges
By UTE SCHULENBERG
THE familiar rattle and clunk as you drive over a timber bridge on your local road is slowly becoming a thing of the past.
With many of the bridges now more than 70 years old, local councils are gradually replacing them with structures more able to meet the modern ever-increasing traffic demands.
It is, however, an expensive process and one for which the councils receive no State Government assistance.
Nambucca Shire Council's director of operations and technical services, Bruce Redman, said his council can only afford to replace three or four each year.
"The reality is that these bridges were built to access logging roads and are reaching the end of their life," Mr Redman said.
"We can prolong their life by placing load limits on them, but eventually they have to be replaced."
Nambucca Shire has 150 timber bridges and the cost of replacement can be anywhere from $75,000 to $2 million depending on the size.
"We are replacing them with structures that have timber foundations and reinforced concrete decks, which is the most cost effective option," he said.
Finding an environmentally friendly way of preserving the hardwood pylons is a challenge the council is exploring.
"We are looking into the possibility of using lanolin, which is a food grade product, as a replacement for chemical timber preservatives," he said.
"The idea came from our field staff. They have been using lanolin grease, already known for its water resistance, where they have cut timber ends.
"We are working with a lanolin company to develop the idea of impregnating the timber with the lanolin."
Bellingen Shire has 90 local timber bridges earmarked for replacement plus a further 13 on the regional road network.
Works manager, Warwick Knight, said it was 'a bit of a funding juggling act' prioritising the road and bridge maintenance projects.
It is understood that an RTA program to assist councils with the replacement cost of timber bridges on larger regional roads is in jeopardy following the State Government's recent signing of the Auslink agreement.