Hefty price tag to repair road

In some places the Bowraville to Bellingen Road is less than one metre wide.
In some places the Bowraville to Bellingen Road is less than one metre wide.

A COST estimate is in for the repair of the Bellingen to Bowraville road – and it’s a real doozie!

A gravel section of the road was virtually washed away in the first of last year’s major flood events and has been closed ever since.

But now that a price tag of $26.5 million has been put on making it trafficable again, some people are wondering what other options there might be.

Nambucca Shire Council general manager Michael Coulter revealed the massive cost of fixing the road at Thursday night’s council meeting.

“A report on the repair of the road is ready to go to a joint meeting of the Bellingen and Nambucca councils, the Roads and Traffic Authority (RTA) and possibly the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS),” Mr Coulter said.

“Under the emergency declaration issued last year there is an obligation on the RTA to fix the road.”

The council’s director of engineering, Bruce Redman, said investigations had revealed that there were at least 40 separate and potentially dangerous slippages on a mountainous section of the road roughly midway between Bellingen and Bowraville.

“If we get another major flooding downpour whole sections of the road could collapse,” Mr Redman said.

“At the moment there is still a road to work on, but for how much longer I don’t know.”

The mayor Cr Rhonda Hoban said four families had been impacted by the closure of the road.

“These families are technically in the Nambucca Shire but to get to Bowraville they have to go via Bellingen and the Pacific Highway,” Cr Hoban said.

“Even the parts of road that are able to carry traffic make for frightening driving. I was on the road recently and it was real white knuckle stuff because the road is so narrow and the drop off is so steep and rugged.”

The meeting heard that one option worth considering could be the creation of an entirely new road around the dangerous section.

“That is why we may have to get the National Parks and Wildlife Service to the table,” Mr Coulter said.

There was also informal chat about a much more radical but arguably more cost effective option – to buy out the four families and permanently close the road.

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