For more than 50 years, the Harwood Bridge has been the major crossing point for motorists travelling across the Clarence River on the Pacific Highway, but by the end of the decade a new bridge will take its place as the main carriageway.
Minister for Infrastructure and Transport Darren Chester said the new crossing is the longest of more than 40 bridges to be built as part of the 155-kilometre Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade along the Pacific Highway in northern New South Wales.
“It will be about 1.5 kilometres in length, four lanes wide and have a 30-metre clearance from the Clarence River,” Mr Chester said.
“This clearance aspect is essential to the new bridge, as the Harwood Bridge currently opens about five times a week for boats to pass underneath, causing lengthy traffic delays. The new bridge won’t need to be lifted, ensuring another section of free-flowing Pacific Highway.”
Federal Member for Page Kevin Hogan said the project was an important part of the Pacific Highway upgrade, to which the Australian Government is contributing $5.64 billion.
“Travel times are expected to be reduced by 2.5 hours when the entire upgrade is complete,” Mr Hogan said.
“Currently, 437 kilometres, or about two thirds, of the Pacific Highway between Hexham and the Queensland border is a four-lane divided road. All remaining sections of the upgrade are currently either in planning or under construction.”
New South Wales Minister for Roads, Maritime and Freight Duncan Gay said today marked half a century of the historic bridge carrying traffic travelling along the Pacific Highway.
“Today, the bridge carries more than 12,700 vehicles a day, 20 per cent of which are heavy vehicles,” Mr Gay said.
“When it opened to traffic on 20 August 1966, it was the third-longest bridge in New South Wales.
“Although the existing bridge met the traffic demand back then, now the Australian and New South Wales governments are delivering a new crossing to meet the modern traffic needs of the state’s north coast. The old bridge will continue to serve local traffic.”
New South Wales Member for Clarence Chris Gulaptis said today’s turning of the first sod for construction of the new crossing marked strong progress on the overall upgrade.
“Work is progressing well on the Woolgoolga to Ballina highway upgrade with about 56 kilometres of the overall 155 kilometres now under construction, including soft soil enabling works,” Mr Gulaptis said.
“This bridge will be a critical piece of work for the 2,500 employees who will be working directly on the Woolgoolga to Ballina section.”
The Australian and New South Wales governments are jointly funding the construction of the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade on an 80:20 basis.