• Tony Bosworth

A tale of two bridges – Upper Colo and Greens Road update - "simply get on with it" says resident

There’s been much talk this week about the promised half a billion dollar North Richmond bridge duplication and route – and no surprise given it’s a big story – but meanwhile there’s another Hawkesbury bridge which is not getting the same level of attention or money lavished on it.

Upper Colo locals are still waiting for Hawkesbury Council to get a move on with a temporary replacement bridge – the old wooden heritage bridge was almost completely swept away in the March floods – and there’s little news on a permanent replacement either.

The flood-damaged Upper Colo Bridge

The flood damage happened three months ago, and since then locals have been forced to take a long way round which is adding significant time and kilometres to daily trips and is also seeing increased wear and tear on vehicles as they use forest trails, not to mention wearing the residents down too.

“I do have bridge envy,” says Upper Colo’s Alice Voigt drily. Ms Voigt has become the de facto spokesperson for the locals up there and she says “I think there has been very little done on this bridge over the past fortnight. I doubt funding has been applied for or that quotes have been requested. I think that we are so far down the list of bridge issues this week, we have fallen off the table”.

“We were told at the first meeting that they would let us know about the results from the further testing which was to see if the remaining parts [of the bridge] were sound,” Ms Voigt said. “There is still no information on this.”

And at Lower Portland where two parts of Greens Road were severely damaged in the floods, Rochelle Miller who speaks for those residents says she has a message for Council.

"Simply get on with it."

Hawkesbury Council have said in their weekly emails to residents that specialist companies have been asked for quotes for a replacement bridge at Upper Colo and in the most recent email they've said they are also looking at providing a temporary repair of one of the Greens Rd closures.

Council say they have asked the Department of Defence, through the relevant channels, for a potential temporary bridge solution for Upper Colo locals – a folding military metal bridge possibly – but there is no news on that at all.

Instead of interacting with residents face-to-face – there has been just one meeting between five of the 12 councillors and residents - Council decided to send a weekly email to both Upper Colo and Greens Rd residents – Mayor Patrick Conolly put that up as a Mayoral Minute at a recent council meeting.

Greens Road at Lower Portland was badly impacted by the floods, with major damage to the roadway in two places, which as in Upper Colo’s case has seen residents having to make long and potentially dangerous detours, in Greens Rd case using unsealed Wheelbarrow Ridge Rd.

Some of the flood damage to Greens Road, Lower Portland

Rochelle Miller - like Alice Voigt at Upper Colo – has become the local contact at Greens Rd for residents to voice their concerns and she says they are far from happy with progress.

“There has been a declared flood disaster. Repairs require a disaster response. Hawkesbury City Council are paying external contractors, and to still be in planning stages is simply not good enough. Some serious responsive planning needs to be addressed,” Mrs Miller said.

Hawkesbury Council’s latest email update for Greens Rd says, “The survey component of the geotechnical investigation has been completed. Based on the data obtained from the survey, PSM [the survey company] have provided preliminary advice that temporary repair works may be possible to allow passenger vehicles to use the road while a permanent solution is engineered. Council is working with PSM to determine how this can be achieved as well as timeframes for temporary repairs to take place.”

Mrs, Miller told the Post, “the latest update basically outlines they are still looking at planning.”

Five of the 12 Hawkesbury councillors met with Upper Colo and Greens Rd residents just over two weeks ago - since then it's been a weekly email only

There has been some movement from Council, with a temporary sealing of 700m of Wheelbarrow Ridge Road.

“Wheelbarrow Ridge Road is finally receiving the support they are entitled too, but it simultaneously raises concerns for Greens Road residents," Mrs Miller said.

“As Greens Road residents have suffered downed telephone lines and trees for years, it’s a kick in the guts to see no temporary solution actioned for the people living in vans, and all those losing family and business income.

“Residents who have lived in the area for 20 to 30 years have simply lost all faith they will receive the support that is so desperately required. They have not forgotten the lack of support they have received over the years when complaints about the road have been lodged.

“It’s [Greens Rd] going to take time to repair properly, we are very aware of that, and of course it needs proper reconstruction for future floods, so simply get on with it.

“Livelihoods depend on the road. And what are southern closure residents going to do when reconstruction begins? How will they get out? Temporary solutions need to begin now.

“Hopefully consideration will be made for residents driving the detour as well. Those travelling Wheelbarrow Ridge Road from Leetsvale, St Albans, Webb’s Creek and the northern Greens Road closure, will need notification of the Wheelbarrow Ridge Road works to plan their work and school run transits,” Mrs Miller says.

“No temporary support has been supplied for Greens Road northern closure residents. They will be travelling further to Colo Heights/Putty Road the day the works are completed. It might be one day but these residents have been travelling 40-60km extra for three months and still have no guideline on how long they are going to be affected with the strain and vehicle costs. What is their temporary support while this is done?”

Mrs Miller says there has been no word from the State government on how they are supporting the suffering of Greens Road residents.

“And there is no end in sight,” she says, and adds a sobering concern for locals.

“Fire season will be upon us soon. The emergency concerns are very real.”

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