The New South Wales Government’s proposal to construct a new four-lane bridge on the Princes Highway over the Shoalhaven River at Nowra has been added to the Infrastructure Priority List after the business case was given the tick of approval by Infrastructure Australia, the nation’s independent infrastructure advisor.
The Infrastructure Priority List provides governments at all levels with a prioritised list of nationally-significant investment opportunities for the near, medium and longer term. Inclusion on the Priority List shows that a proposal has undergone a rigorous business case assessment and has been proven to have significant benefits for the community.
“We are pleased to announce that the Nowra Bridge Project has been added to the Infrastructure Priority List as a Priority Project. Infrastructure Australia’s assessment of the business case found the project to be a sound investment that would support expected increases in local, regional and tourist traffic, and allow for more efficient movement of freight on the Princes Highway, the main north–south link between Sydney and southern NSW,” said Infrastructure Australia Chief Executive, Romilly Madew.
“The Nowra Bridge Project involves the construction of a new four-lane bridge immediately to the west of the two existing bridges. The new bridge would carry traffic heading north, enabling the existing northbound bridge, opened in 1981, to be used for traffic heading towards the South Coast. This would allow the historic bridge to be re-purposed for community uses.
“The existing bridges at Nowra carry more than 50,000 vehicles each day, with the southbound bridge in particular experiencing significant congestion in both the morning and afternoon peaks. Peak hour travel speeds are already extremely slow at 16 km/h, and without upgrades, this is expected to deteriorate further to just 7 km/h in 2038. This will result in significant delays for the region’s growing population, as well as tourists travelling to the South Coast and freight vehicles, which are critical in linking industry to export markets through Port Kembla.
“Another key constraint on freight traffic is the fact that the existing southbound bridge cannot carry vehicles that are more than 4.6 metres tall or Higher Mass Limit B-Double vehicles. Instead, over-size vehicles have to use the northbound bridge with police escort, which closes access for northbound traffic and adds to congestion along the corridor.
“Congestion and stop-start traffic on the existing bridges at Nowra is a major safety concern. The number of accidents on this section of the highway is significantly higher than for similar roads in NSW with 8.1 crashes per kilometre each year, compared with 1.6 crashes per kilometre on similar roads in NSW. The casualty crash rate of 4.3 per kilometre per year is more than quadruple the state average of 0.9.
“With a stated benefit-cost ratio of 2.2, Infrastructure Australia is confident that the Nowra Bridge Project will offer significant community benefits. By increasing capacity and improving traffic flows, the project would reduce travel times and congestion on the Princes Highway, reduce crash rates and provide southbound access for large freight vehicles,” Ms Madew said.
The updated Infrastructure Priority List is available here.
Infrastructure Australia is currently developing the 2020 Infrastructure Priority List, which is due for release early next year.