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Construction for New Richmond Bridge Underway Without Impact Study

Dec 14, 2023

The proposed route for the $500 million duplication bridge over the Hawkesbury River at Richmond has been set in stone, with the alternative “Purple Route” now resigned to history despite no Environmental Impact Study (EIS) being completed.

Transport for NSW has confirmed that the new Richmond bridge will be built about 50m downstream of the existing bridge offering only 1 in 20 year flood resilience – far lower than most residents want and absent any flood study that would be part of EIS.

The Minns government has already begun work on Stage 2 of the new Richmond bridge and traffic improvements project and has confirmed that road widening, wall and mound building and some land acquisition will take place.

“Route discussions have ended,” Transport for NSW project manager Tim Webster told residents at a meeting this week. 

TfNSW also confirmed that historic house Durham Bowes would be affected by road widening plans. Residents have contacted the Hawkesbury Post concerned about the impact of the project particularly on shops in North Richmond, including the North Richmond Post Office, and increase traffic and truck movements in residential streets. The polo community in Richmond Lowlands is also anxious the possibility of increased traffic, including heavy vehicles along Old Kurrajong Road, will create a serious risk for riders and horses who use these roads daily.

Some residents have complained about limited consultation and say they are now only starting to understand what the implications of this final route may be. Others told the Hawkesbury Post that they did not understand that the “preferred option” was now the final route. TfNSW said there would be further opportunities for consultation when the EIS was released mid 2024.

Last night TfNSW representatives held a virtual meeting for Southee Road residents regarding the noise and visual impacts of the new infrastructure to support the bridge project. Residents along Southee Road and Inalls Lane will be some of the most impacted by the project with increased noise, inconvenience and loss of views. Mostly those residents will not benefit from it. The new main road which will run parallel to Southee Road and be 35 – 40 metres from residents’ property boundaries and the eastern end of Southee Road will become a cul-de-sac. 

Inalls Lane will not have a parallel road, instead it will be widened to accommodate the new road with an 80km an hour speed limit. At this stage it is unclear how close that road will be to the front boundaries of properties along Inalls Lane but there will be some acquisition of paddocks along Inalls Lane. One property will be acquired in full. It is likely that houses at the Castlereagh Road end of Inalls Lane will have turning restrictions in and out of their driveways but that will be confirmed at the detailed design phase of the project next year.

Residents were told last night that the paddock and Blue Mountain views they have enjoyed will be replaced with either a mound or a wall – both designed to limit noise. It will be between 3.5 and 4.5 metres high. Depending on the final design a wall that is clear at the top would retain some Blue Mountain views. The final design and height will depend on further community consultation and design work, TfNSW said

The cherished 100 year old Pecan trees along Southee Road will survive but more trees are likely to be removed in the event of a mound rather than a wall option to mitigate sound.  Houses that fall within the gaps of the mound or wall structure will be treated with noise reduction measures such as double glazing. Despite pleas by the owners of Durham Bowes on Inalls Lane to protect the historic house from the changes, it will not be spared. While no land will be acquired, the road will move close the historic home’s front fence. 

Top image indicates the height of the propsed sound wall (artist’s impression) on Southee Road. Bottom image is Southee Road as it looks currently.

There are no details yet about how the changes will affect Hobartville Public School and the surrounding traffic flow. While the meeting was focused on the impact of Southee Road it heard that there will be an additional east bound lane at North Richmond to help traffic through the lights intersection. 

In the past month Bulldozers have been seen clearing vegetation on the eastern riverbank, about 50m north of the existing bridge, and engineers have been collecting traffic data and conducting ground surveys and geotechnical work.

The Federal and NSW governments have pledged a combined $500 million for the New Richmond Bridge. The former Liberal NSW government announced the new “preferred option” for the bridge in December 2022, after facing significant project delays, community opposition, and inadequate community consultation.

Since the April 2022 change in government, work on the project has continued, and as it becomes more visible, community concerns have amplified. Residents worry it will permanently damage important heritage sites, including Durham Bowes and Hobartville Stud, Hobartville. The previous Liberal government excluded the Purple Route as an option because it wanted to protect land designated for future property development on the western side of the river.

“Transport for NSW announced a revised preferred option for the New Richmond Bridge and traffic improvements project in December 2022 after extensive community and stakeholder consultation. The revised preferred option confirms the route for the project and will see a bridge being built at a 1 in 20 year flood resilience level around 30-70m downstream of the existing structure. The existing bridge will be retained”, a TfNSW spokesperson told the HP last month.

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