28 April 2022

Umbagong Bridge design 'like being in cage'

| Ian Bushnell
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Artists' impression of bridge

An artist’s impression of the bridge requiring high rails. Images: ACT Government.

A proposed design for one of the new bridges in Umbagong District Park in Belconnen is already under fire from community groups for safety ‘overkill’.*

Transport Canberra and City Services (TCCS) are moving into the pre-DA community consultation phase for replacing the three ageing and unsafe wooden bridges located on the northern side of Ginninderra Creek in the Park, releasing artists’ impressions of what the new ones will look like.

Similar to the design used in Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve, the bridges will be built mainly of steel with a rusted finish, with fibre-reinforced plastic grating platforms. Rocks used in the abutments will be similar to those on-site.

One bridge, known as 1193, will have 1.4-m-high sides and rails to prevent possible falls due to the height from the bridge to the ground.

Artists' impression of bridge

Another view of the bridges with high rails.

TCCS official Jeremy Smith updated the Belconnen Community Council at its latest online meeting, where the Umbagong Landcare Group and Umbagong Action Group quizzed him on the height of the rails.

They feared the high rails and sides would divorce shorter users from the environment, arguing that there had never been an incident before on the bridges.

One comment from feedback had said that the railing was so high it would feel like being in a cage.

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But Mr Smith said that the building and safety standards had changed considerably since the original bridges were built more than 30 years ago in 1986 and they needed to comply with modern requirements to be approved.

The groups also said proposed stainless steel handrails stood out too much and were unattractive, but these have now been changed in response to the feedback.

Asked whether clear perspex had been considered for the sides, Mr Smith said these tended to be vandalised quickly, either with painted or scratched graffiti.

Artists' impression of bridge

One of the other bridges closer to the ground.

Mr Smith said TCCS had completed ecological and heritage studies, geotechnical investigation and the concept designs.

He said TCCS had limited ability to change the designs due to a desire to minimise environmental impacts and maintain the current bridges’ alignment.

The bridge components will be manufactured off-site and installed without big machinery.

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TCCS expects to lodge a development application between June and August and the tender process to follow from August to September.

The demolition and construction project is expected to take five months from October to February 2023, allowing for the Christmas break and the bushfire season.

Umbagong District Park provides more than 50 ha of open space for recreation and contains significant ecological value.

The second of two pop-up consultation sessions will take place on Saturday (30 April) from 10 am to noon at the Kippax Library.

To learn more visit the TCCS project page.

*This story has been updated on advice from TCCS. The railing height was originally reported as 1.6 metres.

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An example of a bridge that makes you feel like you are in a cage with restricted viewing is Butters Bridge over the Molonglo.

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