10.2 - Attachment 2
180 Binna Burra Rd
Binna Burra NSW 2479
Mayor Simon Richardson
Cr Alan Hunter
Cr Basil Cameron
Cr Diane Woods
Cr Duncan Dey
Cr Sol Ibrahim
Cr Paul Spooner
Cr Rose Wanchap
Byron Shire Council
PO Box 219
Mullumbimby NSW 2482
21 October 2015
Dear Mayor and Councillors
RE: REPLACEMENT OF O’MEARA’S BRIDGE – SCHOOL CHILDREN IN DANGER
We are a community of people living in Binna Burra and Federal in the Byron Shire. We would like to express our thanks for Council Engineer, Shane Pearce, coming out to Binna Burra to answer our questions about the Council’s recent decision to place a 5 tonne restriction on our local timber bridge, O’Meara’s Bridge.
As you may be aware an application has recently been made by the Byron Shire Council under Round 2 of the Australian Government Bridges Renewal Program (the BRP) to replace O’Meara’s Bridge. We understand that the Council has made applications to replace 3 timber bridges in the Shire – O’Meara’s Bridge, Scarrabelottis’ Bridge and a crossing at Main Arms. Given the number of applications already made under Round 2, it is unlikely that all 3 applications will be successful and the Council may be asked to recommend which of the 3 bridges in our Shire has the highest priority. We write to you requesting that you place the highest priority on our bridge for the following reasons. We also ask that the Council consider funding an alternative transport option for the 19 school children who live along Binna Burra Rd until O’Meara’s Bridge is replaced and that more detection devices be installed on O’Meara’s Bridge to maintain at least its Level 4 condition.
O’Meara’s Bridge which crosses the Wilson River was originally built in the 1930s. It is a single lane bridge with a deep drop (several metres) to the river below. The Council has not undertaken major repairs on the bridge since the early 1990s. It has for many years been assessed as being at Level 4 condition (Level 5 would mean it would be immediately closed) and recently the Council has imposed a 5 tonne vehicle limit on the bridge.
The imposition of the 5 tonne restriction has meant that the regular school bus, that has for many years transported the children living along Binna Burra Rd to various bus stops and schools in the area, has been stopped and this has meant that the children must now make their way to 2 bus stops (one at the intersection of Binna Burra Rd and Lismore Road and the other at Walton’s Road). There are currently 19 school children affected by this change ranging in age from 6 – 17 years including one boy with vision impairment.
Binna Burra Road is an isolated narrow country road with little or no footpaths – it is unsafe for anyone let alone children to walk along. For most of the children, the distance to the bus stop makes it an excessively long dangerous walk. Some parents have had to change or reduce their work hours so that they can drive their children to and from these bus stops at 8am and 4pm each school day. This has in turn increased the traffic on our narrow road making it more dangerous. It has also meant that there are now even more cars crossing O’Meara’s Bridge each day. Also, the bus stops are not designed for multiple cars to park or drop children off and it seems only a matter of time before a person will be injured. However, some parents just can’t drop off or pick up their children and so those children are now walking the dangerous road to and from the bus stops.
The original bus was provided under the NSW School Students Transport Scheme (SST Scheme). We contacted the Department of Transport a number of times asking for an alternative transport option but were told this would not be arranged but were instead encouraged to claim the Private Vehicle Conveyance Subsidy to offset the cost of families using their private cars to transport their children to and from the bus stops. For the reasons above, this is not an appropriate option. Firstly, some parents don’t have the option of transporting their child to and from the bus stops and secondly the PVC is supporting the increase of traffic on the road (which increases its danger and also the demise of the bridge). A much better alternative would be for 2 smaller buses (under the 5 tonne limit) to be used to transport the children to and from the bus stops.
The Council has warned that if the bridge is not replaced it will be closed either by the Council because of its condition or because it has collapsed or been swept away by flood waters. The residents of Binna Burra and Federal (who include families and elderly people) rely on Binna Burra Road to access Bangalow and Lismore for groceries, petrol, medical appointments, employment etc. Emergency vehicles also access the bridge. The alternative route is much longer and requires negotiating a dangerous intersection with the Pacific Highway. The potential for the bridge to close is causing much anxiety. Binna Burra Rd also provides access to Federal Village and other tourist attractions in the area – the closing of O’Meara’s Bridge will impact on these. The bridge also supports agriculture and forestry industries in the area.
The Council is hoping that the traffic restriction will prevent the bridge closing but there are still some large vehicles that are using the bridge (and well as all the extra cars using the bridge because of the school bus change). Council has installed equipment to record the number of axles but unless it has the number plate of the offending vehicle, excessively heavy vehicles will continue to use the bridge. The community is trying the assist with reporting these vehicles but a far more effective method would be to install a camera to record the number plates.
We therefore request that the Council consider the following:
1) Funding 2 smaller buses to transport the children to the Lismore/Binna Burra Bus Stop in the morning and afternoons until the bridge is replaced;
2) Give O’Meara’s Bridge the highest priority in terms of replacement; and
3) Install a camera to record the number plates of all vehicles using the bridge.
Thank you for considering these requests.
If you require any further information, we can be contacted on firstname.lastname@example.org or by calling myself on 0429024689 or Joelle Baker on 0422963109.
On behalf of the Save O’Meara’s Bridge Action Group