By Oliver Lees
Increased congestion along the Bulla Bridge poses a “potential hazard for the whole community”, according to qualified civil engineer Steve Bock.
Mr Bock inspected the heritage-listed bridge following the approval of Hi-Quality’s planning scheme amendment, which paves the way for it to accept spoil from the West Gate Tunnel project.
According to a report presented to a Hume council meeting on September 7, 2020, trucks would transport soil to Hi-Quality’s site 24-hours a day, seven days a week for 18 to 24 months.
The report stated that a traffic assessment had estimated there would be 36 truck movements (18 entering and 18 exiting the site) per hour associated with the proposed activity
Mr Bock told Star Weekly the bridge’s antiquated features makes it incompatible for modern traffic demands.
According to the National Trust Database, the Bulla Bridge was originally constructed in 1869 for the use of horse and cart.
“It’s insane to think you have large trucks mingling with cars at that rate on such a narrow bridge,” he said.
“As [the trucks] come down the hill, they need to come down as fast possible to maintain momentum, but they can’t see around the corner.
“Plus the fact that it’s heritage listed, means it should be preserved.”
Mr Bock’s report, which found cracks under the western side of the bridge, outlined the impact of differential loading, which refers to one side of a structure being consistently placed under greater strain than the other from large vehicles such as truck-trailers.
Mr Bock said he had submitted a request for an official load rating report from the state government to assess the bridge’s condition but was yet to receive a response.
The September 2020 report to council highlighted a 2019 survey which found that Sunbury Road was already far in excess of the recommended daily capacity of a two-lane road.
Hume mayor Joseph Haweil said the use of Sunbury Road for the relocation of large quantities of toxic soil would have a major impact on roads that are “already under strain”.
“We hold great concerns about allowing hundreds of extra trucks crossing the narrow, dangerous and heritage bridge at Bulla,” Cr Haweil said.
The Calder Highway and Sunbury Road provide the only arterial connection between the Sunbury and Bulla communities.
Roads and Road Safety Minister Ben Carroll did not respond to questions about whether the state government would consider fast-tracking the Bulla Bypass to alleviate congestion on the bridge.