Wagga’s Edmondson Street Bridge is looking worse.
Motorists and pedestrians crossing the railway line continue to cast a nervous eye towards the slumping footpath and retaining wall on the north-eastern side 10 months after it was partially closed.
Ahead of the state election in March, Labor candidate Keryn Foley pledged “$100,000 to support the Edmondson Street Bridge repair” and the party’s ultimate victory should have secured Wagga the dollars.
As the retaining wall continues to deteriorate, Wagga City Councillor Richard Foley is asking where the money is and whether the bridge is safe.
“Is there a current engineer’s report for Edmondson Street Bridge?” he asked, putting forward several questions on notice at Monday’s council meeting.
“If there is, can it be made available to the public, and if there isn’t, then can we get one done so it can be made available to the public?
“If the bridge were to fail, who holds liability if anyone’s injured or killed?”
It was around November last year that things began looking perilous as the retaining wall slipped, causing the pavement to buckle and slump.
WWCC explained that “the retaining wall failed due to age” and that the council was “working on an interim solution to reinstate the retaining wall that supports the footpath and road pavement”.
At the time, director of infrastructure services Warren Faulkner said the inside southbound lane remained safe and assured the public that the council would “continue to inspect and monitor the situation regularly to ensure the safety of the travelling public”.
As NSW Labor promised to come to the rescue in March, Ms Foley noted that “motorists and pedestrians alike have been inconvenienced”.
“There are three busy schools in close proximity and student and motorist safety should not be downplayed,” she said.
“Thousands of motorists will be breathing a sigh of relief knowing that NSW Labor will be helping fix this bridge.”
Almost six months on, motorists continue to hold their breath and Cr Foley said the community was calling for answers.
“Is there any reason that the council should not consider approaching the Government to get the $100,000 to fortify this bridge from further dilapidation?” he asked.
Region reached out to the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, Jenny Aitchison, who assured us that the cheque was in the mail.
“This Government was clear on the commitments made in the 2023 election, and we look forward to making announcements later this month after the State Budget is handed down,” she said.
Complicating matters further is the fact the bridge, while it is a council-owned asset, is due to be completely replaced when the controversial Inland Rail Project rolls through town.
In November, Mr Faulkner said construction on the Albury to Illabo section, which includes the bridge upgrade, was expected to begin in mid-2024.
In the meantime, revelations of cost blowouts and a lack of oversight and accountability have cast a cloud across the multi-billion-dollar mega-project.
While a Federal Government review is undertaken, it has committed to continuing parts of the project, including the line through Wagga.
Cr Foley is opposed to the double-stacked freight trains being routed through the city but said that either way, an immediate solution was needed to secure the bridge.
“That money should be put into stabilisation to prop up the bridge from slumping any further because I’m concerned that there may be an accident,” he said.
Wagga Council has taken Cr Foley’s questions on notice and is expected to provide an answer at its next meeting.
The NSW Budget will be delivered on Tuesday, 19 September, and Minister Aitchison said election commitments would be honoured under the Local Small Commitment Allocation (LSCA) Program.
Watch this space.