Minister backs bridge fix-up

Hamish Heard
The future of the Barwon Heads bridge remains uncertain despite State Planning Minister Justin Madden yesterday announcing his support for a plan to “redevelop” the existing structure.
Mr Madden yesterday ruled out building a new bridge upstream in the proposed Geelong Road corridor in favour of an advisory committee’s recommendation to “upgrade” the historic timber structure.
“The Bracks Government has always been clear that the original bridge would not be demolished,” Mr Madden said.
“The old bridge is an integral part of the landscape in this beautiful place and essential to the sleepy seaside charm of Barwon Heads.”
The ageing timber structure has been under a cloud for several years since Vicroads revealed that its crumbling structure and spiralling maintenance costs had forced a review of its future.
The deteriorating state of the bridge led to Vicroads putting a 16-tonne limit on vehicles, forcing large trucks to seek other routes between Barwon Heads and Ocean Grove.
Despite Mr Madden’s comments yesterday, State Government had sought a permit last year to demolish the structure but Heritage Victoria opposed the plan amid community outrage.
In the lead-up to November’s state election, State Government said the bridge would stay and appointed an advisory panel to determine its future.
Mr Madden said the Bracks Government would now “investigate” whether the bridge could be adapted to accommodate pedestrians, cyclists and traffic without compromising its heritage and aesthetic values.
But a Vicroads source, who asked not to be named, told the Independent it was unlikely the existing bridge would remain standing if it was to be upgraded for pedestrians, cyclists and heavy traffic.
“In upgrading the existing bridge you wouldn’t replace each element individually,” the source said.
“That would just be bloody stupid, not to mention incredibly time-consuming and expensive.”
He said it was likely that Vicroads would knock down the bridge and rebuild it with a wider footprint using similar materials to the existing bridge but with concrete piles beneath the high water line.
“It would retain the same appearance but it would be a new bridge,” he said.