Urumbilum bridge near completion

CONSTRUCTION of the bridge structure and approaches is close to complete on Houlahans Bridge over the Urumbilum River.

The new concrete bridge on Dairyville Road at Upper Orara is a major construction project being built by Coffs Harbour City Council and will replace a timber bridge which is more than 60-years-old.

The bridge, named for the Houlahan family who were among early residents of the area, provides access for about 50 families west of the bridge in the Dairyville area, although many of those residents also have to negotiate one or both of the timber bridges further west on Dairyville Road on their way into town..

Dairyville Road resident Peter Fraser, who has been travelling back and forth over Houlahans Bridge for 36 years, said the opening of the new $800,000 wide single lane bridge, which is partially federally funded, would be a milestone for the community and he hoped local residents would be invited to the opening.

“Residents on this side will feel a bit more confident and safer,” Mr Fraser said.

“We hope the new bridge will see us out for the next 100 years but we are a bit disappointed that it is not a two-lane bridge, which many people had hoped for.

He said he understood a two-lane bridge would have pushed the project over the $1 million mark.

Mr Fraser said he had been impressed by the speed with which the council’s bridge crew was completing the project, with major components like concrete girders arriving on semi-trailers and being installed in the bridgework ‘within minutes.”

The old timber bridge, which had to be repaired and strengthened some years ago by Coffs Harbour City Council, will be demolished as part of the project.

Dairyville resident Robert Hunter, whose family were among the area’s pioneers said the new Houlahans Bridge was the third, although the first and much longer bridge had been built much further downstream of the present site about 1938.

Mr Hunter said a ‘a large chunk’ of the first bridge had washed away in 1950 and the current timber bridge had been constructed about 1952. He said the original road alignment had also been quite different.

He said the new concrete bridge was ‘quite wonderful’ and the new approaches would be ‘more elegant’ than in the past, especially since the narrowed timber bridge, reinforced with steel, had left motorists nowhere to go if there was someone else on the bridge and they were approaching ‘a little bit too quickly’.

Dairyville Road has five bridges and Mr Hunter recalled adding extra passengers in the back of the car to stop it floating and putting a potato bag on the front of the vehicle to protect the engine as they slogged through deep water and over low-level bridges to get to town until the 1960s.

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