Singing Bridge refuge island plan causes serious community concerns

The outline of the refuge islands as seen from a vehicle cresting the bridge.

A MAJOR sticking point at the MidCoast Council Community Conversations last week in Hawks Nest was the design of the roadworks at the Tea Gardens end of the Singing Bridge.

The community has been stridently calling for a fix to the pedestrian traffic problems upon the bridge’s narrow footpaths, and several were vocally perplexed by Council’s apparent solution.

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The current Council plan is to place a ‘refuge island’ in the middle of the road, metres from where the bridge gradient rejoins solid ground.

Many community members refloated the concept of a boardwalk that wraps around underneath the bridge, with Council’s response citing extreme cost, as well as an impregnable wall of red tape.

“The land underneath is partly Crown Lands, partly the Marine Park, and it would take so long as to never happen,” Council’s Director of Engineering Services, Rob Scott, explained.

Costs and bureaucracy aside, the even bigger community concern was the supposed safety of the proposed refuge island, the white outline for which is already visible at the base of the bridge.

“Large trucks and trailers will not be able to navigate that swerve, and traffic always zooms over the bridge from the Hawks Nest side,” one community member pointed out.

The shape of the newly-laid concrete footpath landings was also troubling, as several senior citizens, dependent upon mobility scooters, starkly pointed out that they simply cannot navigate the sharp angles, and will end up bogging in the grassy corners.

Council representatives reiterated that the current design conforms to Australian standards, saying the community itself had demanded something must be done, indicating that something was better than nothing.

This response did not calm the concerns of those who were, by that point, envisaging a pedestrian accident at the proposed refuge islands, mainly because they feared that Council’s designers had not taken into account realities that locals witness every day.

One proposition was to simply extend the southern side of the bridge’s footpath around 100 metres, then install a more practical crossing parallel to the existing pedestrian crossing at the corner where Marine Drive intersects Myall Street.

Community members asked that no further works continue until another option has been assessed, but Mr Scott reminded them that several other projects had been delayed to get this one done.

By Thomas O’KEEFE

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