Residents call for new bridge
The Toolamba community is calling for a new bridge to be funded and constructed as a matter of urgency, to avoid the inconvenience of needing to take ‘‘the long way around’’.
There is also a push from Toolamba residents to ensure the existing century-old bridge is retained, potentially to be utilised as a walking and riding track.
Greater Shepparton City Council said it would likely need financial assistance to replace the bridge; something that would be needed during the next decade as the existing bridge reached the end of its life.
Toolamba steering committee member Geoff Maynard called for some action on a separate new bridge.
And he was confident the existing bridge could continue to be useful as something other than a traffic arterial, arguing it could connect into walking trails.
‘‘There’s a lot of uses . . . the bridge would not be lost,’’ Mr Maynard said.
He said the state of play — between the two-tonne weight limit and occasional closures for repair — was ‘‘something that affects the whole community’’.
‘‘A lot of SUVs . . . Landcruisers, anything with a trailer . . . it’s going to be over two tonnes.’’
The options in this case, he said, were lengthy detours to the Peter Ross-Edwards Causeway — connecting Shepparton and Mooroopna — or to drive to Murchison.
‘‘It’s a problem that needs to be solved,’’ he said.
‘‘I think the cost just to bring it back to reasonable standard is about $700 000 . . . it’s better toput that into funding for a new bridge. ‘‘It’s very urgent.’’ Fellow Toolamba community group member Robert Knight said some local residents had been working on a plan.
It involves a potential walking and biking trail utilising the ageing bridge for recreational purposes, once a new replacement bridge is built.
He believes ‘‘tremendous’’ opportunities for visitation exist.
‘‘We think it would reduce the amount of money council would need to spend on the bridge, maintaining it as a tourist destination,’’ Mr Knight said.
The fundamental problem with the bridge, as he sees it, is when it is ‘‘out for repairs’’ it can add up to 40 minutes of additional travel.
‘‘The long way around,’’ he described it.
Mr Knight believes the bridge when completely operational serves as a thoroughfare connecting towns, such as Euroa and Tatura.
‘‘It’s used as a sort of bypass road, as an alternative to the causeway,’’ he said.
City engineer Phil Hoare said the council had the bridge programmed for replacement in the next decade.
‘‘We are seeking some assistance and funding for ultimate replace- ment of that bridge,’’ Mr Hoare said.
‘‘Council seeks to get some contribution to some of these larger projects that are probably outside of normal business.’’
Mr Hoare describes the detours around the bridge as ‘‘significant’’ for the community, stressing any vehicle with a heavy piece of machinery was likely to exceed the two-tonne limit.
State Member for Shepparton Suzanna Sheed this week met with locals at the site to hear their concerns.
She used the visit as a platform to call on the Victorian Government and Opposition to consider funding a replacement bridge; recently valued by the Council as costing between $5 million and $7 million.
She said the current bridge was ‘‘not servicing the needs of this community’’.
‘‘A new bridge is required . . . It could be repaired, but at great cost . . . the community are of the view that a new bridge is really the solution,’’ Ms Sheed said.
Ms Sheed hoped that whoever formed government at next month’s state election could partner with the council to deliver ‘‘the new bridge we need’’.
‘‘How long does a community have to keep asking?
‘‘This is a real opportunity for (parties) to have a look at this and see if they can find a solution.’’
Funds needed: It is estimated up to $7 million would be required for a new, modern Toolamba Bridge.