By Stephanie Nestor, Assistant Editor, Infrastructure Magazine

Construction of the New Dubbo Bridge is on track to begin in 2023, thanks to Transport for NSW’s planning and consultation with community groups.

Early works are underway on the New Dubbo Bridge project, which is set to reduce congestion and provide a second river crossing in the region during flood events. Through consultation and engagement, Transport for NSW is working with the community to help deliver the project.

The project has been in development for several years, with the planned works to involve not only constructing the new bridge across Macquarie River, but also to upgrade intersections along the Newell Highway and other surrounding streets. The project is currently in early works, with the main construction contract still to be awarded later in 2022.

The entire project is expected to be completed by the end of 2026 and Transport for NSW aims to keep the community informed every step of the way.

Improving resilience and freight productivity

The New Dubbo Bridge project is the fifth infrastructure project under the Building a Better Dubbo initiative. The project itself is jointly funded by the Federal and New South Wales Governments on an 80:20 basis. The new bridge will be 660m long and will connect the western side of the Macquarie River to River street.

In 2017, after investigating several options and consulting with the community, River Street was determined to be the preferred route for the new bridge, as it would improve freight efficiency along the Newell Highway and provide an additional route during flooding.

Media Manager for Transport for NSW, Penny Robbins, said the Building a Better Dubbo program aims to improve resilience and freight productivity for the region by providing safe and more reliable roads and bridges.

“The New Dubbo Bridge will provide a second high level river crossing in Dubbo during flood events and will maintain reliability for local, commuter and heavy freight traffic through Dubbo during these events,” Ms Robbins said.

The route along River Street was selected to improve freight efficiency on the Newell Highway, reduce traffic congestion and provide an additional route during flood events. It will assist in easing congestion in Dubbo when needed most.

Resolving issues prior to construction

Phase One of the project began in August 2022, with early works on the new intersection at Brisbane Street and Darling Street.

Other works which form part of the project include new and upgraded intersections at Thompson Street, Whylandra Street, and the Newell Highway, realigning the Newell Highway with the new separated lanes north of Whylandra Street, and upgrading the intersection at Bourke Street and River Street.

The realignment and construction of the intersection for Brisbane Street and River Street is underway and will be open to traffic by early 2023, weather permitting. Abergeldie was awarded the contract for the works, which will assist with construction later on by allowing easier access to the bridge.

Additionally, test piling works are expected to begin in the coming weeks, and will form part of the final bridge structure. Caporn Piling will undertake these works in the floodplain between Brisbane Street and Macquarie River by driving three test piles into the ground using hydraulic hammers.

These works will be key to the delivery of the project to identify and fix any issues with construction and structural integrity of the bridge earlier rather than later. Upgrades for the Thompson Street and Mitchell Highway intersection are also expected to commence by the end of 2022. Construction of the bridge itself will begin in 2023, with the main contract to be awarded by the end of 2022.

Brent Knight (Abergeldie Complex Industries), Dane Hendry (Transport for NSW), Paul Polansky (Transport for NSW) and Aron Frost (Caporn Piling NSW Pty Ltd), turning the first sod on the early works phase of the New Dubbo Bridge project

Building a bridge to help the region

Throughout construction and after completion, the project is expected to boost the local economy and ease congestion in the region, by offering hundreds of jobs and providing a necessary alternative route when flooding blocks key roads and freight routes.

“The project will deliver a boost for regional New South Wales and grow the Dubbo economy, supporting an estimated 290 direct and 1,200 indirect jobs during the construction phase,” Ms Robbins said. “There is a strong focus on engaging and supporting women, Indigenous people, trainees and young workers as part of the New Dubbo Bridge project,” Ms Robbins said.

Since its planning, the project has been focused around reducing traffic congestion, improving freight efficiency and preparing the region for when extreme weather events occur. The new bridge and realigned roads will form a key route for both the local area and New South Wales.

“Once completed, the New Dubbo Bridge will reduce traffic congestion and enhance access across the Macquarie River during flood events,” Ms Robbins said. “It will transform the way motorists travel around and through Dubbo, keeping commuters and freight moving efficiently on the Newell Highway.”

The city of Dubbo in the central west of NSW , Australia.

Working with community since the beginning

The most important part of developing the New Dubbo Bridge project has been consulting with the community to ensure the bridge will not only serve road users but will also minimise damage to the surrounding areas and heritage of Dubbo.

Since planning and development began in 2015, the community has been consulted to determine the best course of action for the project and the region. Through consultation and investigation, it was determined that the nearby Emile Serisier Bridge caused long delays and heavy congestion when it flooded during extreme rainfall.

The New Dubbo Bridge aims to alleviate the high traffic volumes experienced when the Emile Serisier Bridge is closed. The community got to be involved with commenting on the strategic concept design for the proposal and offering feedback in drop-in sessions.

“Transport for NSW has been in regular contact with local residents, landowners, the Indigenous community, Dubbo Regional Council and the business community since the start of planning for the project,” Ms Robbins said.

“Initially the project team met with residents, landowners and businesses to keep them informed about how the project was developing, including discussing impacts and answering specific questions raised by stakeholders.

“The project was then handed over to the delivery team who continued work on the project including developing the detailed design and  associated works such as further geotechnical and survey investigations, as well as detailed planning and finalising design.

“In May 2022, Transport for NSW hosted an Industry Forum in Dubbo for local contractors and suppliers to come and meet prospective tenderers and find out what skills and experience were required for work on the New Dubbo Bridge project.”

Additionally, it was key that planning took into account both Indigenous and non-Indigenous heritage when developing and constructing the project. Local Indigenous groups, including the Dubbo Local Aboriginal Land Council and Tubba-Gah Aboriginal Corporation, worked with Transport for NSW to salvage stone artefacts from the site and repatriate the Terramungamine Grinding Grooves along the Macquarie River.

Transport for NSW also investigated whether the project would impact the Mount Olive Cottage located nearby and determined care will need to be taken to prevent damage to the driveway and surrounding plantings.

Ecological assessments and investigations were also undertaken, with the project unlikely to impact threatened species or ecosystems, but risk management measures will still need to be taken before construction.

As works continue into the future to deliver the project, keeping the community informed throughout the process will ensure the new bridge can adequately provide that alternative route during flood events the region desperately needs.

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