Flooding at the intersection of Pound and Bridge Streets near the viaduct in Grafton during the May 2009 Floods.
Flooding at the intersection of Pound and Bridge Streets near the viaduct in Grafton during the May 2009 Floods.

Bridge plan flood prone

RESIDENTS near one of the six short-listed route options for a new Grafton bridge have ridi- culed the plan, saying it will be a $200 million Olympic pool in flood time.

Option C - the one developed by Roads and Maritime Services rather than the community consultative group - crosses the Clarence slightly downstream from the current bridge and enters Grafton by cutting through Greaves St and into Pound St where it will cross Kent St on an overpass before dipping under the Pound St railway viaduct - which has a four-metre-high clearance at the centre of the arch.

The new bridge, which will be designed to carry heavy traffic including B-doubles, will need to have a 5.3m clearance on both sides so the road will presumably have to be dug out.

This is where residents are smirking and cringing at the same time. A quick look at the photo above, taken in Pound St in May 2009, shows what happens within 10m of the viaduct in a gully which turns into a stagnant creek in flood times. Water also covered Pound St on Thursday night.

"The road will end up being lower than the gully if they're going to allow trucks on both lanes," said Bacon St resident and Concerned Citizens Group (CCG) member Bob Cairns.

Mr Cairns, a former civil engineer, said he was baffled by the proposal which was not only technically dubious but completely ignored the wishes of the local community.

"None of the members of the panel that came up with this proposal are from Grafton and it shows," Mr Cairns said.

He and other members of the CCG have been in contact with Roads Minister Duncan Gay and Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis on the issue.

"We still haven't heard back from (Deputy Premier) Andrew Stoner (whom the group wrote to in November) to seek assurances he still wanted to see the bridge on the outskirts of town," he said.

"He agreed that it was ludi- crous to bring heavy traffic into town."

The group questioned the validity of building a second crossing so readily affected by flooding.

"The issue is, after two years of consulting with the community the RMS has gone and drawn their own line which is where they wanted it in the first place," said CCG member Sue Hillery.

RMS was sent the following questions on the issue.

1/ What are the plans of the RMS regarding flooding in relation to Option C? A section of the road was under water last night and a further depth of 1.5m at the viaduct nearby will make any future bridge there useless in flood time. The nearby gully has been inundated in all of the past three floods (2009, 2011, 2012).

2/ We also understand that Option C (Pound St) requires a bridge over the top of Kent St - 150 metres west of this overpass it needs to duck 5.3 metres under the viaduct (a further 1.3 m below the current road). Such a steep descent on a road designed to carry heavy vehicles would increase noise from exhaust brakes and the like. Has the community been informed of such impacts?

3/ We understand access for residents of Bridge St has not been factored into the proposal. Is this true?

4/ Will the large fig trees in Pound St (near the TAFE) be safeguarded in the new development?

5/ Will any heritage-listed houses be demolished for this option?

6/ Will any public facilities, including parks and buildings be affected by this option?

7/ We understand that option C was not developed by the community consultative committee but by RTA staff. Do any of the RTA staff involved in the development live in Grafton?

Seemingly ignoring the questions, RMS responsed:

"Six short-listed route options for the second crossing of the Clarence River have been announced. One of the options starts at the junction of Pacific Highway and Gwydir Highway, South Grafton, crosses the Clarence River just downstream of the existing bridge and connects to Pound Street, Grafton

"All of the options, including Option C were short-listed after thorough investigations which looked at social and environmental, engineering, land acquisition, and traffic and transport requirements. Community and stakeholder feedback was crucial to the development of all the short-listed options.

"Further investigation and field investigations on the short-listed options will be carried out in the near future to help determine the preferred option. These investigations will include survey work, geotechnical investigations, flora and fauna studies and an exami- nation of Aboriginal and non-Aboriginal heritage.

"All of the short-listed options will be individually investigated and community issues will be considered as part of the next phase of route evaluation."

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