Estate residents, motorists clash after bridge closure
THE closure of a 75-year-old bridge has left residents exasperated and frustrations have boiled over as motorists forced through a detour are clashing with the residents of a housing estate.
The Ripley Road Timber Bridge, built circa 1945, was closed to traffic in early May due to safety concerns.
An Ipswich City Council spokesperson said the structure was in "very poor condition" and required a 4T load limit, which was not being adhered to.
About 500 vehicles used the bridge every day.
"Without daily monitoring, council was unable to ensure motorist safety should these breaches result in failure of the structure and therefore needed to close the bridge with immediate effect," they said.
The council is replacing the bridge and construction is scheduled to start late this year following the completion of the design and procurement process, and it should be completed early next year.
Detours are in place pushing motorists on a dirt detour road and through the Providence Estate.
"The decision to close the Ripley Road Timber Bridge was not one that was taken lightly by council," the spokesperson said.
"The initial technical recommendation was that the bridge be closed permanently with the detour becoming a permanent arrangement.
"As a consequence to implementing a more acceptable, longer term solution, there was a slightly longer design period for the new structure."
"The procurement strategy needed to be revised when the market responded to the original request with higher than expected costings for the bridge replacement."
Some rehabilitation works were completed on the bridge in 2013 to rectify "defects".
In 2016, the bridge was identified as having several structural issues which required further investigation and load assessment.
A secondary inspection was completed in October 2016.
The council spokesperson said consultation was undertaken in 2016 to identify an alternative route for heavy vehicles in order to remove heavy loads from the bridge.
"Speed limits were reduced to 40km/hr and load limits were later applied. These measures are consistent practice on road networks within the state. There were some refurbishment works completed to extend the service life of the structure," they said.
"When load limits were not being adhered to and the refurbishment work did not achieve the desired outcome to extend the utilisation, council had no option but to close the bridge (this year)."
Steve McCormack, who has lived in the Ripley Valley for close to a decade, wrote to council to express the frustration shared by many other long time residents about the closure of the bridge.
Mr McCormack lives about ten minutes up the road from the estate and regularly passes through as a result of the detour.
He said clashes between motorists passing through and residents had led to several "blow-ups".
"It's just a tiny suburban street and I can totally understand why they're getting annoyed," he said.
"There's trucks and cars, seven days a week, 24 hours a day (driving through). It's bad all day and there's a big school being built there. There's all trucks and tradies going (to work on site).
"The frustration has been building, with the traffic, dust and dirt through the detour routes between effected residents and detour traffic. Confrontations are now happening and it's beginning to tear apart the community. We are forced to drive through their brand new estate... down thin winding streets with our vehicles covered in dust and dirt from the detour road, not to mention the noise and general inconvenience of having 500 plus vehicles a day going past their new houses"
He believes council should have acted quicker to replace the bridge once they knew of its deterioration and residents were suffering as they continued to drag their feet.
"It is no secret that the council has been aware of the state of this old wooden bridge for many years," he said.
"From that point any decent council would have been planning and budgeting for the bridge replacement given the well publicised increase in development in the area.
"It disgusts me that very little to no preparation was put put into the dirt detour roads before or soon after the closure, and still to this day apart from a little grading, rolling and some water being dropped onto Bayliss Rd sporadically, the roads are still dust bowls with the residents forced to have their houses covered in dust. Watsons Rd is similar."
"Emergency services are also effected by the bridge closure having to detour through the estate if they have any calls further up the valley."
The council's general manager for infrastructure and environment, Charlie Dill, said as the new structure is an interim solution, it will have the same "functional arrangement" as the previous timber structure.
"As traffic demand increases, the bridge will be upgraded to meet demand," Mr Dill said.
Mr McCormack said he was incensed by the lack of forward thinking.
"They have known about the state of this bridge for years and given the current and future usage of the road cant upgrade to two lanes?" he fumed.
"Look at the new bridge into the Providence Estate - a beautiful two lane bridge with pedestrian and cycle access, no doubt paid for by the developer."