Bridge safety fears
By Zoe Satherley
Following a massive landslip on Wednesday, Ballina residents have called on Ballina Shire Council to prove to them that Teven Road and its old timber bridges are safe. They also want assurances from the RTA that the multi-million-dollar proposed Ballina bypass won't meet the same fate and be swallowed up by the unstable alluvial soils in the region.
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Their long-standing concerns were highlighted after the sudden subsidence of a new section of the very busy Teven Road ? near where it meets the Pacific Highway.
Bridgework has been under way on the site for the past six weeks.
As Workcover investigates the incident, the main union representing workers on the site has called for all construction work to cease until safety concerns are addressed.
Ballina solicitor David Johnston yesterday said the twin bridges were a 'disaster waiting to happen'.
"It's a miracle they haven't collapsed yet," he said.
Despite the load limit on the bridges being 18 tonnes, Mr Johnston, whose property borders the bridges, said every night 60-tonne B-double semitrailers thundered over them.
"It's absolutely frightening. The bridges sway and wobble and it must eventually destabilise them," he said.
"It would not surprise me if they were the next to collapse."
Mr Johnston is part of a community protest group which has been lobbying for improved safety of the road and bridges.
He said the community was concerned because the bridges were constructed over 100 years ago and not designed to take the volume or weight of traffic currently using them, including hundreds of cane and quarry trucks and school and passenger buses each day.
"The community is also asking if the best possible route for the Ballina bypass is still over the flood plain," he said.
Ballina Shire Council's general manager John Christopherson yesterday moved to reas- sure the community the ageing timber bridges were safe.
He said council engineers and consultants had spent the day on the site investigating the cause of the problem.
They had informed Workcover of the dangerous incident but believed the remaining road surface and the bridges were stable and had opened the route to traffic, he said.
Council has been widening and raising the road in preparation for replacing the existing bridges with concrete ones.
On Wednesday about 1500 cubic metres of the new earthworks sank into the ground just minutes after workers had knocked off for lunch.
The area where they had been standing was sucked down into the underlying soft and unstable alluvial soil.
An eyewitness said the land 'wobbled like jelly' before cracking open and swallowing up about six metres of the newly-raised roadway.
The CFMEU regional organiser, Mick Lawler, has called for all work on the site to stop until safety can be guaranteed.