Erskine Bridge traffic light plan ridiculed by Callington residents
The Murray Bridge and Mount Barker councils hope to save money by convincing locals to accept a less expensive solution to a long-standing safety issue.
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Four years ago, Callington residents were promised a $382,000 pedestrian bridge that would link the two sides of their town.
Now they’re being told a traffic light is the best the Murray Bridge and Mount Barker councils can do – and it will still cost $400,000.
The two councils are inviting residents to have their say on the latest plan, which follows more than 20 years of inaction around the Bremer River crossing.
At present, the heritage-listed, single-lane Erskine Bridge carries about 600 vehicles and 25 pedestrians per day between the two halves of the town.
Those pedestrians – many of them schoolchildren – have to walk on the roadway, risking an accident every time they cross the river.
The councils revisited the pedestrian bridge idea in recent months, but found they had underestimated how much engineering work would be needed.
They even considered closing the historic bridge to vehicular traffic and building a ford between Steele Road, on the Murray Bridge side, and the bottom end of Montefiore Street on the Mount Barker side.
But each of the alternative options would cost between $700,000 and $1 million, a significant increase on the 2018 estimates.
Residents criticise ‘ridiculous’ plan
The early reaction from residents has been overwhelmingly negative, judging by the comments left on a Mount Barker council web page.
More than 20 residents lined up to describe the proposal, variously, as “ridiculous”, “insulting”, “disappointing” and a “band-aid”.
Murray Bridge’s councillors voted last week to put the traffic light idea to the public, but without much enthusiasm.
Cr Wayne Thorley said he felt uncomfortable about having failed to meet the community’s expectations.
“If we feel that a set of stoplights is a practical way to manage to-ing and fro-ing between (areas of) that community, I think we just haven’t tried hard enough,” he said.
“After 20 years I think we should be a little bit embarrassed.
“We’re not looking forward, we’re just looking to kick the can a little bit further before the big decision has to be made.”
Mayor Brenton Lewis agreed that, ideally, someone would have done something about the river crossing 10 or 15 years ago.
But doing something now was the next best option.
“This is the current proposal,” he said.
“The public will definitely give us a … you know, (they’ll) vote this one in or out.
“It will be interesting.”
If residents did approve the traffic light plan, lights could be installed beside the bridge next financial year.
The cost of the project would be split 50-50 between the two councils.
It is possible that an alternative plan could also be factored into the councils’ 2022-23 budgets, depending on their other priorities.
A community meeting about the proposal is expected to be called in Callington in the coming weeks, and a final recommendation made to councillors in May.
More information: letstalk.murraybridge.sa.gov.au/pedestrian-crossing-of-the-bremer-river.
Have your say: Visit yoursay.mountbarker.sa.gov.au before April 11.
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