The NSW Government has announced that works to widen the Marshalls Creek Bridge have taken priority over Olympic Highway upgrades on either side of the Gobbagombalin Bridge.
Minister for Regional Transport and Roads Jenny Aitchison made the announcement on Tuesday morning following deliberation with the Commitee 4 Wagga and the Wagga Wagga Residents and Ratepayers Association on Monday.
In May, the NSW Government announced controversial plans to place traffic lights on either side of the Gobbagombalin Bridge, ultimately shelving plans for a four-lane extension of Marshalls Creek.
Ms Aitchison said there had been much community discussion looking to re-prioritise the two projects, with several community groups raising concerns that if the bridge isn’t improved soon, it will be unable to be renovated.
“We want the people of Wagga Wagga to know that we have listened to you and we are putting the priority into writing,” Ms Aitchison said.
“We want to make sure that the work we do is in the best community interest. We have been working with council and community groups like Committee 4 Wagga and the Wagga Residents and Ratepayers Association to make sure we are making the right approaches and the right infrastructure.”
State Member for Wagga Wagga Dr Joe McGirr said when the announcement of the Marshalls Creek Bridge plans was delayed, both he and Wagga Wagga City Council approached the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads to reiterate the importance of the Marshalls Creek project.
“The announcement [of the Olympic Highway upgrades] was made a couple of months ago. With that knowledge, I went straight to the Minister and said, ‘This is not right’,” Dr McGirr said.
“This is not what the community wants; Marshalls Creek should be a priority.
“The Wagga community are quite happy to hear the announcement today, it’s just a commonsense move.”
Both Dr McGirr and Wagga Wagga City Councillor Dan Hayes applauded the NSW Labor Government for the swiftness in the re-prioritisation while also putting the interests of the Wagga community first.
Cr Dan Hayes said it was important for the people of Wagga to remember the state of the Marshalls Creek bridge plans before and after the 2023 state election, adding the previous Liberal government postponed the project with no public knowledge.
“What has happened in almost 100 days of a Labor Government is fixing that [Marshalls Creek],” Cr Hayes said.
“People who are having concerns about a new Labor Government in the regions, this is what they’re delivering.”
Ms Aitchison said it could take up to two years for the official work on the bridge to begin, but promised planning would start as soon as possible.
Meanwhile, plans for the Olympic Highway have been postponed indefinitely.
Ms Aitchison said the cost of the original plans for the Gobbagombalin Bridge from 2018 had inflated dramatically, causing the Government to shelve the Olympic Highway upgrades.
“Back in 2018, we had a commitment of $30 million to spend on both the Marshalls Creek Bridge and the installation of two intersections on the Gobba Bridge,” she said.
“In those five years, these costs have escalated massively and there is no capacity for those two bridges to be completed on that budget.”
Dr McGirr reiterated that the Wagga community’s preference for the Gobbagombalin Bridge solution was to duplicate the current structure, but admitted it would be a long-term plan.
“The key to the issue is that the solution to the Gobba Bridge needs detailed long-term planning,” he said.
“The community has pretty clearly stated that they think that duplication of the bridge is going to be the solution, particularly for the northern suburbs.
“As for the solutions put forward with the intersections at either end of the Gobba Bridge, we went back two or three times to the committee because those designs, people just weren’t happy with them.”
Ms Aitchison said the Gobbagombalin project would be an expensive one that needed extensive planning that could take 10 to 15 years.