No money to fix patched up bridge

By Sean Hefferon
LAST month the Shire of Toodyay Council was to consider the approval of the reconstruction of bridge 4085, otherwise known as Slaughterhouse Bridge which is located on Toodyay West Road.

The timber bridge which was built in 1937 and spans Toodyay Brook is a single lane only 4.2 metres in width.

Unlike the Clackline Bridge also timber and built in 1935, the local bridge is not listed on the Heritage Council of Western Australia’s Register of Heritage Places.

The prospect of Bridge 4085 being rebuilt has been live since a 2021 report by Main Roads WA found “significant deterioration in the timber elements of the support structure of the bridge”.

In 2023 Main Roads advised the Shire of possible options to limit bridge loading and that design work had commenced to replace the bridge.

Emergency repairs to the bridge structure were then completed in late 2023 including placing several acrow props under the bridge and galvanised steel bands around the timber pylons.

After these repairs a nine-tonne load restriction was imposed and heavy vehicles above that weight are currently diverted to Julimar Road.

Feedback from a local farmer suggests that this diversion has had little effect on agriculture, however, he said a “few trucks for water or building supplies could present a problem”.

This diversion is in place for a temporary period and according to the Shire planning for a replacement bridge had progressed with Main Roads and in April 2024 bridge alignment options were discussed with councillors.

Minutes from the May council meeting state that “ Option 3 from the alignment study was proposed by Shire officers as the preferred alignment based on the minimising of land take required from adjacent private properties and a design speed limit of 70 kph”.

In addition, “two types of construction (for bridge replacement) were assessed – the precast concrete plank deck structure and the Unibridge steel structure”.

The minutes show the precast option is preferred due to lower maintenance costs.

A further design consideration discussed at the April meeting was the inclusion of a footpath to enable riders to cross the bridge safely, which would be expected to form part of the overall bridge replacement cost.

When the shire and Main Roads had commenced planning for the replacement of the bridge it was understood that the works would be funded entirely from the Australian Government’s Bridge Renewal program.

From 1 July 2024, the funding guidelines will change with the rollout of the Safer Local Roads and Infrastructure Program.

This new program requirement for bridge replacement on a local government road is that 80 percent of funding will be made by the Federal Government with the remaining 20 per cent being funded by the local authority.

This change to funding arrangements had been foreshadowed by Main Roads in recent correspondence to the shire.

Given an estimated bridge replacement cost of between six and eight million dollars, these new arrangements will require the shire to fund between 1.2 to 1.6 million dollars of the costs.

Funding capacity is limited and the May council minutes state: “The Shire of Toodyay will not have the capacity to fund 20 per cent of the bridge reconstruction cost and hence will need to seek funding from other sources” and further, “the financial risk to the shire is
significant as the bridge must be replaced”.

To put the above costs into perspective, the local government’s 2023/24 budget shows a
rate revenue of 7.6 million dollars and a total
budget of 10.25 million dollars.
Due to the change in funding requirements,
the Toodyay Council voted to defer a decision
on the replacement of Slaughterhouse Bridge
pending further clarification regarding
funding options.
It is unclear when the matter will be
brought back to the council for consideration
and in the interim Toodyay locals will be left
with a bridge that “must be replaced” – at
some point.
According to Tabitha Bateman, Acting CEO
for the Shire of Toodyay, the replacement
of Slaughterhouse Bridge is more than 12 months away.