Bridge saga to council tonight

Castlemaine residents concerned about what the future holds for Froomes Road Bridge, Sabrina Huggins, Justin Shortal and David Huggins with Crozzie the dog, gather support for a petition calling for any new bridge design to remain one-lane only.

The intense degree of public interest surrounding the future of Castlemaine’s historic Froomes Road Bridge is expected to draw a packed public gallery at this evening’s Mount Alexander Shire Council meeting.
Lobbying stepped up this week ahead of this evening’s anticipated council decision on whether to review the design of the structure that’s planned to replace the existing one-lane historic bridge.
Whether it should be replaced with a single or double-lane structure has drawn debate since the former council last year endorsed awarding a $1,018,300 contract to VEC Pty Ltd to replace the current old bridge with a double-lane structure.
The decision drew the ire of many locals, worried that doing so will increase the volume and size of vehicular traffic using the leafy precinct abutting the botanical gardens, negatively impacting safety, aesthetic, tourism and heritage values.
Some locals have also continued to speak out about what they regard as a lack of public consultation by the previous council before making its decision to award the contract, while also calling for any replacement design to include pedestrian provisions.
And some, including members of the Froomes Road Bridge Action group, have intensified their public lobbying of the council ahead of this evening’s meeting, collecting signatures for a petition that calls for any replacement bridge to remain single-lane.
Castlemaine’s David Huggins and Justin Shortal stationed themselves in the botanical gardens near the bridge last week collecting petition signatures and said they were also enabling public consultation that they regarded as previously lacking.
“We’re consulting with a wide range of the community including the parkrunners who use the gardens,” Mr Huggins said.
“We’re canvassing people. It’s a good chance to help inform council, and what people are telling us is that they can’t see the advantage of changing it.
“There’s a hell of a lot of people essentially saying the same thing, which is to preserve it as a one-lane bridge, and we’re also getting a lot of comments calling for pedestrian access, for a footbridge connection to the western side (of Barkers Creek).”
“We’re hearing from people who have been coming here to the gardens for 60 years,” Mr Shortal said.
“I’d hate to see bogey trucks here, roaring past these gardens.”
Results of the petition are expected to be presented at this evening’s council meeting with action group member Ian Edwards also stating that an online version of the petition has garnered hundreds of signatures.
The former council’s decision to demolish and replace the existing bridge followed an assessment that found the bridge was at the end of its life with several serious structural issues identified. Councillors at the time of endorsing last year’s decision to award the contract had also raised emergency access concerns.