Port Augusta adds to SA infrastructure woes

SAFC takes council to task for allowing crucial link to deteriorate

Port Augusta adds to SA infrastructure woes
Evan Knapp says the council must shoulder its responsibility


The indefinite closure of Port Augusta’s Great Western Bridge has added to the state’s infrastructure dramas.

Fresh from Adelaide’s tram overpass scandal, the state is witnessing a spat over the impact of the closure of the cycling and pedestrian bridge and the impact of that on highway traffic over the nearby Joy Baluch AM Bridge.

"Council staff have been completing increased inspections of the bridge since acoustic testing in 2014 identified a loss of structural integrity," Port Augusta mayor Sam Johnson says of the 90-year-old structure.

But while the Council has been "aware for some time of the need for a long-term solution as the structural issues cannot be addressed through repair", the South Australian Freight Council (SAFC) has taken it to task for maintenance failures and the state and federal governments for infrastructure funding shortfalls in the state.

 "It is clear that the Port Augusta City Council has failed to maintain the Great Western Bridge properly over an extended period of time - and it needs to accept full responsibility for the closure," SAFC executive officer  Evan Knapp says.

"This is a serious problem with ramifications not only for the residents of Port Augusta, but the many thousands of motorists that pass through the town," he said.

"The bridge closure is causing significant safety issues, with a 25 km/h speed limit now being enforced on the nearby Joy Baluch AM Bridge – part of the National Highway network and a key freight route – as residents seek to use it as an alternative pedestrian crossing.

"I recommend Council reviews the findings of the Local Government Association’s 2001 Wealth of Opportunities study which clearly states ‘Assets not maintained are assets lost’."

The SAFC says it has for many years warned asset managers that maintenance spending needs to be significantly increased.

Accelerated infrastructure maintenance has been SAFC’s second highest infrastructure priority for over a decade – only eclipsed by the completion of the North South Corridor.

Knapp also said the Federal Government had failed to provide a "fair share" of bridge maintenance funding to SA.

He urged local councils throughout SA to urgently apply for funding under Round 3 of the Commonwealth Government’s Bridges to Renewal Program, which is currently open.

"The Bridges to Renewal Program provides $360 million dollars over five years to 2019/20 for upgrades and repairs to bridges across Australia," Knapp says.

"Of the $111 million assigned in Round 1, SA received a pittance – just $284,000. In Round 2, we received $3.69 million of the $100 million on offer.

"To date, SA has received only 1.88 per cent of the available Commonwealth bridge renewal funding – we should have received our population share of 7 per cent, or around $15 million.

"However, the Federal Government will only provide funding if councils can come up with 50 per cent of the required money.

"As the asset owners, it is a council’s responsibility to do so – and it should be seen as a discount on maintenance expenditure that should already be programmed for the asset, or an opportunity to bring works forward.

"SAFC calls on the Port Augusta City Council to do whatever is required to address the bridge’s safety issues and to get the National Highway over the Joy Baluch Bridge operating as intended."

The Council says it is must now consider the short-term and long term options for continued access to the Great Western Bridge, as the integrity of the entire length of the bridge is compromised.

Investigations are being made into funding opportunities through federal and state government to assist with the repair or replacement requirements.

It adds that Johnson has begun negotiations with relevant ministers in a bid to secure funding through the Bridges Renewal initiative with matching State Government funding.

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