ALMOST READY: End in sight for highway's lengthy new bridge
THE last 80 tonne girder has been placed on the new Richmond River Bridge at Broadwater as the "lifesaving" multi-million project nears completion.
Federal Member for Page Keven Hogan was joined by Deputy Prime Minister Michael McCormack and NSW Nationals candidate for Ballina Ben Franklin to mark the milestone of the project.
Mr Hogan said prior to construction of the new bridge the number of fatal crashes had already halved from 40 deaths each year prior to less than 20.
"There was more fatalities on this highway 50-60 years ago and we have more traffic now," Mr Hogan said.
"But fallen fatalities is where the bridge been dual duplicated, that's why this project is so important because fatalities will fall even further."
The 850 metre new bridge, which has a total of 234 girders, is the second-longest of 170 bridges on the Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade and provided a critical link for the 155 kilometres of new dual carriageway. It is the first time a bridge this wide has been built in Australia with a single precast headstock, meaning there is a shell for each column to support the load of the girders.
"This has reduced the need for temporary construction work, eliminating 20,000 hours of working, which has not only saved time but also improved safety for workers. About 3000 are currently directly employed on the highway with another 9000 indirect jobs."
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure, Transport and Regional Development, Michael McCormack said the installation represented a momentous achievement of a project aimed at reducing death tolls on the Pacific Highway.
"This will be such life saver for those people who traverse the Pacific Highway," Mr McCormack said.
"We all know how much of a death-trap the pacific highway has been for too many years, that's why the Federal Government has committed so much money to make that sure the duplication of the pacific highway is complete ... to get people off the roads, sooner and safer."
Mr Franklin, said the project team would be using 43,000 tonnes of concrete, 3,500 tonnes of asphalt and 2,500 tonnes of steel to build the bridge.
"Piling work was completed earlier this year and the bridge deck is already more than 70 per cent complete," Mr Franklin said.
"The bridge will be a unique visual landmark, creating a new connection between the Richmond Valley and Ballina Shire councils."
With a little more than a year of works left, the new bridge is on track to be open to traffic in 2020, weather permitting. The Australian and New South Wales governments are jointly funding the $4.3 billion Woolgoolga to Ballina upgrade on an 80:20 basis.