• Tony Bosworth

Greens Rd repairs could stretch to 2023 – and Upper Colo Bridge won’t open until end of 2022

Repairs to flood-damaged Greens Road at Lower Portland and Upper Colo Bridge are not due to be finished until late next year and in the case of the bridge and one section of Greens Road that could stretch into 2023.

Meanwhile since the March floods – 6 months ago - residents are still having to go on long work around journeys, while residents on part of Greens Road may effectively be locked in at night, and there is still no costing for the replacement Upper Colo bridge.

At this evening’s full Hawkesbury Council meeting, councillors will be asked to agree to a recommendation that council go ahead with a concrete bridge to replace the heritage wooden bridge at Upper Colo which was partially swept away in the March floods. So far there is no public costing for that bridge.

The timetable is - design to be complete by the end of October, tender period to be December and potentially into January 2022, awarding of contract February/March 2022 and construction beginning in May 2022 which will take six months at least, councillors will be told, taking it to November 2022, or over a year away from now before the new bridge is open.

The timetable for Greens Rd is little better, indeed repairs to the so-called site 2 at Lower Portland will not start properly until May next year and according to the council will take between 3 to 4 months to complete – so around September 2022 before that stretch of road reopens.

The damaged Upper Colo bridge...

It will only be when that first stretch is repaired that construction on the second will begin – according to information given to residents via a Zoom meeting - so a start date of around September next year, and again 3 to 4 months build time, so potentially into early 2023.

Residents in the Upper Colo area are not surprisingly unhappy with the slow pace of repairs to their bridge – and the non-appearance of a mooted temporary bridge - and there are other issues too, not least a build up of rubbish at Upper Colo as day trippers ignore road closed signs.

“It’s disappointing that any temporary [bridge] option seems to have been taken off the table without any progress,” says Upper Colo’s Alice Voigt.

“With the completion [of the new bridge] still 12-18 months away this leaves residents with significant continued struggles.”

Ms Voigt says Upper Colo residents “have been completely mishandled in the past six months. Multiple requests [to Hawkesbury Council] for communal skip bins or some form of waste collection have gone unanswered for the entire duration the council tip was closed.

“The council’s most isolated and vulnerable have once again been overlooked and ignored.

“I now have to haul three months worth of waste collection from my NDIS client to the tip which has just recently opened, wasting time and money when the Council should have stepped up long ago.

“We have a large senior population who is not very internet savvy and the strain on all residents during the flood and COVID has been exacerbated from Council’s delays,” said Ms Voigt.

The barricade to the bridge continues to be vandalised each weekend with numerous cars disregarding the road closed signs and parking on the broken bridge structure, says Ms Voigt.

“Come summer the cars lining the road will make driving dangerous and unsafe.

"The lack of waste collection or public toilets at the site on the south side continues to mean that...

"...residents pick up dirty nappies, fast food wrappers and human faeces every Monday and dispose of this at their own cost,” Ms Voigt said.

“Council has not made any significant inroads to these concerns even after they were raised at the first meeting back in May. They need to permanently close the area until all infrastructure is in place.

“The minimal signage at Colo Heights Road does not deter anyone from driving down to the north side of the bridge with waste collection and public toilets again being a huge issue. The north side has the added danger of a small and winding road which is just waiting for an accident or fatality to happen,” she says.

Ms Voigt is also concerned about residents’ safety given we’re getting close to fire season.

“We need a secure temporary solution to ensure their safety over this coming hot weather.

“The request for Upper Colo Road to be compliantly sealed prior to any work commencing on the bridge was not confirmed during the Zoom call with residents and council, even though Mayor Patrick Conolly wholeheartedly agreed this would be the case when he met with residents at the site of the broken bridge some months ago.”

On Monday, comments on the Upper Colo Community page focused on the huge amounts of rubbish local children are pulling out of the river, the hazards that the lack of toilets and bins are creating, and the parking issue on Upper Colo Road for visitors who are desperate to visit the river after a long and frustrating lockdown.

It’s barely a happier situation at Greens Road where digger work has been going on to cut into banking and make a temporary route but gates the Council has placed after the northern damage at site 2 means that while residents will have a temporary passage soon that will only be during daylight hours, the gate at the northern end will be closed in the evenings.

Southern residents on the road will still be able to exit at all times.

Site 1 - the southern end - currently has a 3-tonne limit which means flood repairs on homes – remember this happened back in March - will be further delayed until the road reopens properly.

Off their own backs, residents got a quote for a 48-tonne temporary bridge to help give southern residents more chance of getting construction trucks in – some are trying to rebuild homes damaged in the floods - which was forwarded to council. Residents have told the Post, Hawkesbury Council has given no guarantee that temporary solution will be put into place.

“The timeline for reconstruction is unacceptable,” one resident who wished to remain anonymous told us.

“A road design has still not been chosen after six months. The first Zoom delivery of engineer surveys provided options on ways to reconstruct the damage, it will be another five weeks before a design is chosen, after which council have advised there could be options but the design will go into its usual lengthy tender process.

“The times quoted for delivery are all predictions,” the resident says. “There is no actual plan because there is no design and no procurement allocated.

“The quotation of three to four months for repair on each section is ridiculous considering the areas are less than 1km of reconstruction in total. January construction closures also haven’t been factored into the planning.

The resident said those who live in the area are also upset that they have been told by Council that Resilience NSW will not be funding any water transit support while the road is being repaired.

“At site 1, ambulances can’t enter and helicopters are not always available,” said the resident.

“There are a few elderly residents that are concerned particularly.”

The RFS has told Greens Rd residents that smaller vehicles can access in an emergency and there is a water vessel available for support and helicopters would be used in a major fire.

“But response times are still questionable, especially in high winds,” said the resident.

Northern residents have been told a fire truck will be able to access the tight bends, but again they have been told response times will be longer than normal.

There’s also been a near doubling in cost for trucked-in water supplies for northern end residents.

“Water haulers have now agreed to enter the tight road bends,” says the resident, but because of the length of time and the distance they have to travel, water loads are now almost double the cost they were.

“Livestock services are almost non existent and trades are unwilling or hesitant to readily service call-outs due to the detour, and the pricing is inflated,” said the resident.

“Greens Road residents are fed up,” says the resident.

“The anxiety is high and a few are mentioning they may even sell and get out after all this because the response has been so delayed. They can’t face much more.”

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