Gone: Lighthouse Road in June 2005.
Gone: Lighthouse Road in June 2005.

Long wait for road repairs continues

Shhhhh! I won’t say it too loud, but Tuesday marked the fourth anniversary of the collapse of a section of Lighthouse Road and the adjacent timber boardwalk at Byron Bay after a massive downpour.

And it seems fairly clear now there will be a fifth anniversary with the major repair job not expected to be completed until the end of next year, or even later.

But put away the party hats, whistles and balloons and hold the champagne, because no-one is celebrating. Indeed, bemused locals are still scratching their heads as to why it’s taking so long to get the job done.

As the temporary traffic lights still control traffic at the one-lane collapse site, Byron Council has copped – and is still copping – most of the flak over the delay.

Byron United president, Ed Ahern, described the council’s handling of the project as ‘inept’.

“You have got to have the will to fix these things,” he said. “Anyone would have fixed it a long time ago.”

It’s a sentiment echoed by a Lighthouse Road resident who described the last four years of vehicles accelerating, braking and honking horns at the lights as ‘s**t’.

He said he thought it might have taken six to nine months at most to repair the road and walkway after the collapse on June 30, 2005 and never dreamed it still wouldn’t be done four years down the track.

“If it was Noosa, it would have been fixed in six weeks,” he said.

Do Ed and the resident have a case? Possibly.

Comparisons can be odious, as the saying goes, but here goes anyway:

 The Eiffel Tower in Paris was built in two years in the 1850s.

 The 2737m Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco took just over four years to build in the 1930s.

 Started in 1932, the Sydney Harbour Bridge was built in six years.

 The 8.6km Brunswick to Yelgun Pacific Highway upgrade, including a couple of major bridges, was built in two years.

For its part, Byron Council has consistently taken the line that a myriad of complexities has been the culprit, not least of which is the involvement of a number of authorities including the Cape Byron Trust, RTA and the National Parks and Wildlife Service – bureaucracies which move at their own pace.

And then there are the engineering ‘difficulties’ which have impacted on the planning, investigation, design and construction of the repair works, according to the council’s director of asset management services, Phil Holloway, who inherited the poisoned chalice.

Just a couple of months ago, Mr Holloway said the complex nature of the work required specialist contractors for the design and construction as it was ‘outside the normal scope of council activities’.

There have been setbacks of course, with probably the receipt of only one tender for the job in January last year heading the list.

It was a tender ultimately rejected by the council which led to more negotiations and investigations based on issues raised by the RTA on the failed tender process.

That led to the council seeking further geotechnical tests on the site with consultants, GHD, given the job.

GHD came back with design options which they recently presented to the council which, in turn, took to the Cape Byron Trust for its input.

The good news is that the trust last week accepted the council’s recommended option and things are on the move again – sort of.

The council’s manager of infrastructure planning, Michael King, said the detailed design work would take at least six weeks, after which contract documentation would have to be put together.

Also, said Mr King, Aboriginal heritage assessments on the site had to be carried out to be followed by a three-month tender process.

He said it was expected the revised design would be more cost-effective and would attract a wider range of contractors.

But even if the council, the trust and National Parks and Wildlife Service give the new option the go-ahead – which may very well be a permanent single lane road – there is still RTA approval to be achieved. And because they are paying for it, that’s obviously vital.

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