Green bridge route “a given”

In 2021 $3.45 million of maintenance works was spent on the current bridge crossing buying time for a new bridge to be built hopefully within the next decade.

Despite no final confirmation from the state governments the green route for the new Yarrawonga Mulwala Bridge crossing is “a given” according to Federal Member for Nicholls Damian Drum.

Mr Drum made the statement in a press conference held at the Yarrawonga Multisport Stadium site on Monday alongside Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development Barnaby Joyce.

But contrary to Mr Drum’s understanding the NSW Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Sam Farraway’s office would not confirm the route after three requests by the Yarrawonga Chronicle as to whether a confirmation decision has been made.

Last week a Transport for NSW spokesperson could only confirm they were still yet to determine the preferred route.

“Transport for NSW sought community feedback on the grey and green options for a new Yarrawonga-Mulwala crossing in mid-2021 to understand current community sentiment and to better appreciate community issues and values,” the spokesperson said.

“Transport for NSW has used this feedback to understand the diverse range of opinions and interests and will use this information to assist in determining the preferred route.”

But Mr Drum, standing next to the Deputy PM at the time, said ‘the green route’ – near and in parallel to the railway line – is determined.

“The report that we have is it’s a given, we are in with the green route,” he said.

Mr Drum said there has been lot of work done over the last two and a half years to get to an agreed route and to get both governments to listen to the people of Yarrawonga Mulwala.

“Everyone is in lock step with the route and now we have to go and source funding.”

The ‘grey’ route – along Irvine Parade to cross the lake at the Yarrawonga Mulwala Visitor Information Centre - was decided as the preferred route in 2015 by the NSW and Victorian Governments after both states’ road authorities’ recommendations.

Victorian Minister for Roads and Road Safety Ben Carroll said in a statement following the release of the recent community consultation last year that based on the feedback and changed council preferences, both governments understood community sentiment may have changed and “we felt further consultation was necessary to confirm the preferred option”.

“Transport for NSW received 285 comments/submissions during consultation from 15 June to 30 July which focused on issues including requests to retain the existing bridge, concerns about trucks on Belmore Street and planning for future population growth and development.”

At least 74% of respondents were for the green route.

Timeframes for design and construction of the new bridge are yet to be determined and depend on budget allocation according to Transport for NSW who expect construction to be between five and 10 years as per the Murray River crossings investment prioritisation assessment.

Mr Drum also said on Monday the priority of the new Yarrawonga Mulwala has lifted to number three from eight, now only behind Swan Hill’s and Tooleybuc’s bridge works.

In 2018, the NSW and Victorian governments carried out the Murray River Crossings Investment Prioritisation Assessment to help inform and prioritise future investment decisions by ranking each crossing over the Murray River.

The assessment reviewed 32 bridge and ferry assets and considered freight connectivity, road safety, reliability, condition, proximity to alternate crossings and pedestrian and cyclist facilities.

Mulwala Bridge was then ranked eighth highest priority for investment, behind Swan Hill, Tooleybuc, Abbotsford, John Foord, Murrabit, Towong and George Chaffey bridges.

The Federal Government has indicated a 40% contribution towards the bridge’s construction similar to Echuca’s new crossing which was opened by the Deputy Minister Joyce on Monday before his Yarrawonga visit.

Government authorities have also held steadfast in their aim to demolish the iconic 1924 Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge once a new bride is built.

Despite many supporters of the ‘green’ route requesting the current bridge be retained Transport NSW made it very clear the existing bridge will be demolished in the Mulwala Bridge community consultation summary report released in December 2021.

“The existing structure has reached the end of its serviceable life and will be replaced by a bridge on either the ‘grey’ or ‘green’ route,” Transport for NSW stated in the report.

“Constructed in 1924, the existing Mulwala Bridge needs to be replaced, to ensure a safe and serviceable structure that meets the community’s current and future needs. When construction of the new bridge is complete, the current bridge will be demolished.”