Council to erect signs on Heathcote Road to 'rally residents' in bridge battle

The Heathcote Road bridge at Engadine. Insert: 1997 Leader report on council's battle for a new bridge at Woronora. Pictures: John Veage
The Heathcote Road bridge at Engadine. Insert: 1997 Leader report on council's battle for a new bridge at Woronora. Pictures: John Veage

Sutherland Shire Council will erect signs on Heathcote Road, Engadine to "rally residents" to fight for a duplication of the bridge over Woronora River.

The council campaigned in the same way for a new, high level bridge at Woronora in 1996-97 before the state government bowed to community pressure.

In a bipartisan motion at the last council meeting, the council expressed "in the strongest terms" its opposition to Transport for NSW's intention to only widen the bridge and approaches, and not increase the number of lanes.

The transport authority announced last month the bridge, which has a long history of accidents, would be closed for six months from late next year while the work was carried out.

History of accidents: A man and a woman were lucky to escape from this crash on the bridge in 1989.

History of accidents: A man and a woman were lucky to escape from this crash on the bridge in 1989.

The council resolution:

  • Reaffirmed Heathcote Road was the most dangerous road in its local government area.
  • Demanded the safety of road users be paramount and ahead of any, and all, financial considerations.
  • Noted the bridge, built in 1943, an approaches was in urgent need of repair.
  • Determined to use all reasonable means, within the provisions of the adopted budget, including erecting signs on both approaches to the bridge, to rally residents and to ensure that Transport for NSW duplicated the existing bridge, to provide for two lanes in each direction, so as to meet current and future transport demands along this busy corridor.
  • Requested a meeting with Transport for NSW and a full briefing on all accident statistics on similar roads in the State and on the Heathcote Road, in the last 10 years.

The council will write to Premier Gladys Berejiklian supporting Heathcote MP Lee Evans, who has called a four-lane crossing "the only option" and urged residents to make their views known to the government.

Deputy mayor Steve Simpson said the timing of the new campaign was ironic.

Cr Simpson said the first edition of the Leader on June 29, 1960 reported on the push for the new bridge over Georges River at Taren Point to be wider than intended to cater for the region's transport needs.

"We move forward to 1995 and, even though the state government at the time said it wasn't feasible and we shouldn't have a major bridge over Woronora, we fought for a new bridge," he said.

"The council put up signs calling for the community to make their views known to the government.

"That campaign was a success and the bridge was subsequently built.

"Today, we cross the Woronora River at Engadine on a single lane bridge that is falling apart.

"What's even worse, we do so knowing people have died on that bridge, including [off-duty firefighter Drew Cullen] who was was killed in 2015.

Deja vu: Cr Steve Simpson with copies of Leader reports on the 1980s battle for a new bridge at Woronora, which the community won. Picture: John Veage

Deja vu: Cr Steve Simpson with copies of Leader reports on the 1980s battle for a new bridge at Woronora, which the community won. Picture: John Veage

"We can as a community embarrass the government simply to build the bridge.

"Put the signs up and get the community operating so they write to their members to say 'We need a four lane bridge on the most dangerous road in the shire'."

Cr Diedree Steinwall, who joined with Cr Simpson in preparing the resolution, said the work proposed by Transport for NSW was "the perfect opportunity for us to raise our voices".

"They want to close the bridge for six months," she said. "I can envisage huge chaos for traffic at Sutherland.

"I wouldn't mind going through the pain if we get some gain, but if we have it closed for six months and still end up with a two-lane bridge I don't see the point.

"There is common agreement we need a four-lane bridge with dividing barriers.

"We have waited over 75 years. We don't want to have to wait another 75 years for another lane or two."

Cr Greg McLean said, "This is perhaps one of the most important resolutions we will deal with".

"Cr Croucher and I had a briefing from Transport for NSW and I was left rather surprised to find their proposal to upgrade the bridge will not even include a barrier down the centre of the road because the tarmac of the bridge cannot support it.

"There will be a minimal increase on each side of the bridge to make it easier to pass.

"I don't believe it will reduce the opportunity for accidents to happen on this bridge and they will continue to happen in the future.

"This is the bridge we will be stuck with for the next 50 years. If it does not happen now it will not happen in our lifetime and our grandchildren will be wondering why it didn't take place.

This road is increasingly getting more traffic on it and that will continue."

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