Taking their team of 14 bullocks up Good Hope Hill near Yass in 1897, William Lawrence and his son Alf look to have stepped from Henry Lawson’s epic poem, The Teams, penned eight years earlier, that opens with a cloud of dust on the long white road.
While many of the bush roads around Yass continue sending up a cloud of dust, 11 are receiving new bridges to handle heavier loads.
Steel and concrete structures are replacing timber bridges on bush roads throughout the district, the first over Derringullen Creek on the Black Range Road.
The new infrastructure, worth $5.6 million when all the bridges are included, has done little to soothe long-time residents along Black Range Road, who wanted a dangerous bend straightened out as well.
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“Another half-done job,” says a neighbour of the new bridge. “It should have been done 20 years ago.”
Canberra residents looking for a rural retreat have taken up many of the new allotments along Black Range Road. “You can pick the ones from Canberra, there are two or three cars out the front,” says the neighbour.
More cars are on the roads as people go to and from work in the national capital. He says a public meeting in the lead up to the bridgework resolved to lobby the council to keep the existing timber bridge open until the new one was complete, rather than diverting traffic to Common Road. This would have been dangerous for vehicles like the school bus exiting on to the Hume Highway.
Bullock wagons hauled wool bales and grain along these roads. But today, Transgrid is carrying heavy equipment, trucks are carrying loads of sheep, cattle and hay, earthmoving equipment, water tanks and building materials for new homes.
Load limits on the old bridges – ranging from 4 to 12.5 tonnes, have for years caused long detours, or loads to be halved to lighten the demand on old bridges.
Transporters are not the only ones happy with the bridge replacement. The old timber bridges are expected to yield a bonanza of hardwood for recycling.
Anthony Barrie, of Complete Civil which is responsible for the Derringullen bridge on Black Range Road and Walmsley bridge on Yass River Road, says the timber will most likely be used for homes, furniture, decking and possibly fencing.
He is unsure of what timber has been used at Derringullen. “A lot of it will be ironbark, we have still got to get it all out and have a good look at it,” he says.
Member for Goulburn Wendy Tuckerman says projects like the bridge replacement program helped to reduce costs and improve productivity for the freight industry.
“These load limits really affect residents, trucks are vital for stock and feed movements to local properties and limits mean loads need to be split and transferred to smaller vehicles,” she says.
“I’m delighted to see the upgrade completed and load limits lifted.”
Yass Valley Mayor, Rowena Abbey says the stronger bridges will bring significant economic benefit to the region’s agricultural sector and better road reliability for local residents, emergency services and school buses.
“We are extremely grateful to the State Government for providing this substantial grant funding, as it has allowed us to fast-track this major infrastructure project which, without the funding, would have taken 25+ years to complete,” she said.
The 11 bridges being replaced are on Leake Street, Yass River Road, Black Range Road, Nottingham Road (two bridges) Childowla Road (three bridges), Burrinjuck Road, Graces Flat Road and Horseshoe Road.
Four of the timber bridges are being replaced with modular steel bridges, while the other seven are being replaced with concrete bridges.
The Yass Valley Timber Bridge Replacement Project will continue into 2020.