Bridge troubles spark safety concern

A series of hard knocks to the underneath of the Riesling Trail Bridge at Clare has ignited resident Alistair Hope to raise the alarm on its current condition, especially for the safety of passing motorists.

Mr Hope says he is worried that a few more hits by larger vehicles, moving under the 4.5m clearance bridge along Farrell Flat Road, may lead to concrete falling onto vehicles.

“Most people look where they are driving, yet they don’t look up and see the underneath of the bridge,” Mr Hope said.

The impact from higher vehicles in recent years has led to damaged sections of some of the concrete, which has since exposed structural bar work.

For Mr Hope, safety for his community is                paramount.

It stems from his long-time volunteer work with the CFS, a trained first-aider, a school bus driver for 20-plus years, plus his years as a light airplane pilot.

“I am worried about another hit hurting or even killing someone who travels under the bridge,” he told the Plains Producer.

Above, the bridge is widely used for several recreational purposes as it links in with the popular Riesling Trail.

In his quest for safety, Mr Hope has discovered that the bridge was built in the 1920s, adding he has been made aware by police that anecdotally, it has been hit about five times in the past few years.

But Mr Hope’s recent angst has led him to reach out to Frome MP Geoff Brock who joined him for a visit to the site on June 30.

In response, Mr Brock told the Plains Producer, the bridge will need to undergo repair works and on July 1 wrote to Infrastructure and Transport Minister Corey Wingard regarding the situation.

“It’s potentially a safety risk,” he said.

“This bridge has long been a concern of the community both with its low clearance and now the deteriorating condition…,” he said.

In his letter to the minister, Mr Brock shared, ‘in the damaged sections there are some pieces of concrete, which appear to be just slightly lodged in the bridge, but could dislodge at any time and therefore I am concerned that this poses a serious risk for road users’.

He requested that the minister’s department carry out an inspection “urgently”.

Mr Brock also reported the issue to the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council CEO to make her aware of the situation.

While not the jurisdiction of the council, CEO Dr Helen Macdonald said that two of her staff have inspected the bridge on separate occasions, including acting on Mr Brock’s advice.

“Apparently it is not a new defect but has been there for quite a few years,” Dr Macdonald said.  “Council staff remember very clearly when it was hit by a Clare based contractor.”

Dr Macdonald added that their inspection “didn’t suggest any immediate risk, but in support has also contacted the Department of Infrastructure and Transport (DIT) to make them aware.

“DIT knows and they indicated they would send one of their bridge people out to inspect,” she added.

A response is yet to be given by the minister’s office and it is yet to be determined whether the bridge works will be put on a state priority list.