‘I am even getting tingles now just thinking about it’
DESPITE the new bridge providing many milestones, there was one that still makes the hairs on the back of Aiden Thompson’s neck stand up.
“If I had to pick one it would be the rail bridge occupation weekend – we removed the existing structure and had trains running back over it 72 hours later,” he said.
“I am even getting tingles now just thinking about it again.”
That 72 hours was pivotal to the overall project, involving meticulous planning to demolish the old rail bridge and install a new one in just three days, something the Fulton Hogan construction manager agreed was an impressive feat.
Mr Thompson said despite the many challenges involved in such a huge projects, it was a great feeling to see the bridge finally open to traffic.
The discussion it was generating in the community was impossible to escape and he noted just how many people had been talking to him positively about it’s arrival.
“It’s very surreal, there were a lot of sleepless nights, hard work and with the flick of a switch almost, you watch those first vehicles go across,” he said.
“I think it is life changing for a lot of people and it has been life changing for the project team as well.”
“It is a big accomplishment to be able to build a significant structure that will be there for the rest of our lives, connecting communities.”
It was a similar feeling for RMS senior project manager Greg Nash, who said he loved the being part of the project which was “probably one of the bigger challenges” of his career.
“I love the challenge in breaking a project down and developing a solution,” he said.
“For me it has been a number of years in the build and with all the challenges we have been through it is great to see the traffic finally flowing through.”
As to what was on the cards for the pair after such an accomplishment, Mr Nash noted there was still work to be done around the southern entrances to the bridge and it would take time for the full benefits to be realised.
“We still have another round about to build over the next six months and there will be some interim traffic arrangements over South Grafton that people need to understand,” he said.
“When the Pacific Highway finally moves and that roundabout can be opened we will see the full benefits of traffic flowing across the bridge.”
But for Mr Thompson, as promised back in March, first he would be taking the family over the bridge he played a pivotal role in creating and heading back to Victoria for some more – albeit smaller – bridge building.
“They (his family) will be here before the new year and will be going over it a few times.”