Port Augusta footbridge closed indefinitely due to safety concerns

CLOSED: Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson at the 90-year-old Great Western Bridge, which has been closed from Wednesday, March 22, for an indefinite period due to safety concerns.
CLOSED: Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson at the 90-year-old Great Western Bridge, which has been closed from Wednesday, March 22, for an indefinite period due to safety concerns.

The Great Western Bridge has been closed indefinitely due to safety concerns raised in an independent engineering report.

The report was received by Port Augusta City Council late Wednesday, March 22, and it can be revealed the 90-year-old bridge needs $7.5 million worth of repairs and upgrades to reopen it. 

It follows Council staff completing increased inspections of the bridge since acoustic testing in 2014 identified a loss of structural integrity.

The report also confirmed Council’s assessment of additional timber movement in the bridge span, evidenced by the recent collapse of two light poles, and significant further deterioration of the abutments at each end of the bridge.

The bridge is owned and managed by the Council and Port Augusta Mayor Sam Johnson said Council have been aware of this problem for a ‘long time’ and had made multiple requests for funding from the state government.

One of those requests was to state Minister for Transport and Infrastructure Stephen Mullighan in 2015, and Mr Johnson said the state and federal government must chip in $3.75 million each.

“Let’s get our heads together, state and federal, and say show’s on the road, let’s make it happen,” he said.

“It’s unfair also for the rate payers of Port Augusta to be paying for these sort of assets, $7.5 million bucks is a lot of money, regardless of any council, and they shouldn’t have to be paying for this basic necessity.”

To reopen the bridge in the short-term, works would be required to reinforce the abutments at both ends of the bridge and the light poles to be reinstalled with additional supports.

However Council appear reluctant to do this, as the report identifies significant deterioration to the bridge’s deck and structure, which requires greater funding to fix.

The bridge is often used by local residents for day-to-day walking activities, recreational fishing and local tourism. Mr Mullighan said he was advised by Mayor Johnson yesterday that he had received the report and his request that the government support a bid for Round 3 of the Bridge Renewal Program.

The federal government program has committed $360 million over five years to 2019-20 to the Bridges Renewal Program.

Mr Mullighan said it’s difficult for the state government to support one particular bridge because it would result in other councils requesting to fund their bridges, but said he’s offered to work with Mayor Johnson to get the bridge repaired.

“ ... The Great Western Bridge is council-owned and has been since 1978,” Mr Mullighan said. Rowan Ramsey was contacted but unavailable for comment.

“There are several thousand bridge structures across South Australia in council ownership, some which may need to be replaced ...” 

“ … And I would encourage councils to apply for funding through the Commonwealth’s Bridge Renewal Program.”

Mr