Cowra Council is reaching out to key state officials, including the NSW Transport Minister, the Minister for Regional Transport and Roads, and local members, advocating for support in planning a crucial addition: a state-owned second bridge crossing over the Lachlan River.
Cowra mayor Ruth Fagan has emphasised, in a minute to this week's council meeting, the necessity for another bridge to address congestion issues due to increased freight and traffic in the foreseeable future.
The urgency for this infrastructure becomes evident when considering the closure history of the Low-Level Bridge over the Lachlan River in Cowra.
During 2021, the low level remained closed for a staggering 83 days, followed by a prolonged closure of 146 days in 2022 due to elevated river levels.
These closures severely affected road users, causing extensive delays and congestion on all major highway routes leading to and from West Cowra.
"This Bridge is an intersection of five highways and at the bottom of the Cowra main street, making it a compelling case to build another bridge to ease the strain on local infrastructure," Cr Fagan said.
"There is a 2.5% increase of freight every year which is becoming unsupportable," she said.
Concerns were echoed by Councillor Erin Watt, who also emphasised the urgency of the situation.
"We know... living here, this route becomes highly problematic," Cr Watt said.
Deputy Mayor Paul Smith also spoke on the traffic flow.
"You don't realise how much traffic there is on the low level bridge until it is out of action," he said.
During the 2022 flood the traffic conditions were intensified, observed stretching along the Mid-Western Highway, reaching near Airport Road, and causing significant congestion on Lachlan Valley Way and Young Road, extending 200 metres southwards.
The Cowra Council's Strategic Plan and the 2023-2024 Operational Plan stress the urgent need to construct a new mid-level bridge.
Mayor Fagan expressed concerns over Transport for NSW's suggestion that the council independently pursue planning for a local bridge.
Cr Fagan urged the state government to recognise the strategic significance of the project and its vital role in addressing anticipated growth by 2047.
She emphasised that this isn't a replacement but a necessary addition to the existing low-level bridge.
Damien Pfeiffer from Transport for NSW pledged collaboration with the Council to identify traffic management solutions for future low-level bridge closures until a replacement is feasible.
The council's plea underscores the immediate need for government recognition and inclusion of the second bridge crossing in forthcoming planning initiatives to ensure regional development and functionality.