9 November, 2023
BRIDGE: Fix it or replace it?
A NEW bridge over the Barron River at Kuranda or a major upgrade of the existing one?
This is the question being asked of locals by the Department of Transport and Main Roads as the next step in its $8.98 million planning project which aims to determine by late next year what the best long-term solution for the vital bridge is.
The community consultation, which is open until 8 December, offers two options for the ageing bridge which has been the focus of repairs and part closures for years now.
Locals are being asked whether they would like a major upgrade of the existing bridge or a completely new structure that would be built downstream of the current bridge.
However, TMR admits there is still no money allocated to fund the detailed design and construction of either of the two options.
The first option is to undertake a major upgrade of the existing bridge which would include replacing the bridge deck with a new steel box girder design; strengthening existing concrete piers and foundations; wider traffic lanes to meet latest design standards; and a new 4m-wide pathway for pedestrians, bike riders and mobility device users separated from traffic with a barrier.
TMR says a temporary bridge (for up to five years) would be built to maintain traffic access during construction but advised some traffic disruptions would be incurred by commuters during the works.
The second option is to construct a new bridge, downstream of the existing structure that would provide wider lanes and the 4m-wide pathway separated from traffic with a barrier. TMR says some traffic disruptions would be experienced during construction, but generally traffic would be able to use the existing bridge while the new bridge was under construction.
Mareeba Shire Council has already opted for the new bridge option and is urging locals to have their voce heard now on the future of the bridge.
“Mareeba Shire Council has reviewed the Kuranda Barron River Bridge solutions presented by the Department of Transport and Main Roads and council supports the proposal for a new Barron River bridge to be built downstream of the existing alignment,” Mayor Angela Toppin said.
“TMR has invited the community and road users to provide feedback on the proposed options and I would like to encourage residents to go online and have their say.
“Council has been advocating for an improved solution for the Kuranda Barron River Bridge for many years, and there have been numerous studies completed by the Department.
“It is now time to see action from the Queensland Government to bring this vital project to fruition.
“The bridge provides a key transport route between the northern Tablelands and Cairns including the Gulf of Carpentaria and Cape York Peninsula.”
“Council believes the construction of a new bridge is critical for tourism, agriculture, business and economic development of the Mareeba Shire and the region, and a letter will be sent to the Minister.”
Mareeba Chamber of Commerce president Joe Moro also preferred a new bridge, noting that a more effective transport corridor to the coast was also vital.
“Unfortunately, they are only options but if they are going to do something, we (would) prefer a whole new bridge,” he said.
“It'll have a longer life span and we won't have to worry about ongoing maintenance.
“The Mareeba to Cairns road is a very important link, and the Kuranda Bridge is a part of that link.
“Delays and load restrictions impact what and how things move freely onto the Tablelands, and so therefore, the sooner we can get back to the previous weight limits, the better it would be for the economy as a whole.
“Preferably it will be a dual-lane bridge and road all the way down the Kuranda Range. The bridge is only one part of the solution.”
Transport and Main Roads Minister Mark Bailey encouraged locals to participate in the consultation.
“I encourage frequent bridge users to provide their feedback, given their unique insights,” he said.
“Feedback from the community and road users will complement the technical expertise of the engineers working on this planning project.
“Previous community feedback gathered in May 2022 has already played a crucial role in shaping these options for a long-term solution for the bridge.”
TMR has published artist’s impressions of the two options on the consultation website and is seeking feedback from the community and road users to inform the planning study.
For those without internet access, a copy of the artist’s impressions can be obtained by contacting the TMR Cairns office on 4045 7144.