HOME STRAIGHT: Motorists could get an early Christmas gift
MOTORISTS tired of sitting in peak hour Grafton Bridge traffic may receive an early Christmas present - if all goes to plan.
This week, the final precast segment of the new Grafton bridge was lifted into place, signalling the final stages of construction and another link between the Bundjalung and Gumbaynggirr nations.
"We're now in the last phase of the project," Roads and Transport senior manager Glen Nash said.
"There are still a lot of tasks to complete before it's open to traffic but we're in that final push, so that's really encouraging us."
Mr Nash said their goal was to have the new bridge open to traffic before Christmas this year.
"That's our target," he said.
"It's pretty ambitious and there's a lot of work to be done, but that's what we're pushing for."
Clarence Nationals MP Chris Gulaptis said he, like many others, is eagerly anticipating this planned opening date.
"I drive over the bridge every day and I get frustrated with the queues of traffic so I can't wait for this to open," he said.
"Fingers crossed it's going to work to plan and we don't get gridlocked with the traffic lights," he laughed.
Mr Gulaptis, who walked the span for the first time on Friday, likened the new bridge to a Winx race.
"There's a lot of excitement and anticipation at the beginning. The race starts and she's back in the field and the crowd murmurs but as she hits her straps in the home straight and she hits the front with the finish line in sight, excitement reaches fever pitch," Mr Gulaptis said.
"To see the new bridge on the home straight with the finish line in sight after a long race is just as momentous and we're all very excited about it."
Mr Gulaptis said the bridge now stretched around 500 metres across the Clarence River.
"All 176 of the pre-cast segments have been fitted and secured into place, forming seven of the nine bridge spans, allowing a continuous reinforced concrete box girder section to take form.
"Work will now continue over the full length of the structure to complete the bridge deck. This includes installing road and pedestrian barriers, shared path railing, expansion joints, asphalt surfacing and noise walls.
"Residents will also see work on the approaches to the bridge including installing road pavement, medians and kerbs, shared footpaths, safety barriers, landscaping, street lighting and line marking.
"The new bridge will consist of two lanes but has been designed to be increased to four lanes when traffic levels require it.
"The bridge is a real boon for the local community being the single biggest infrastructure spend the Jacaranda city has ever seen.
"I know everyone in the local community is looking forward to seeing it opened to traffic, which is anticipated before Christmas.
Work to improve the Villiers Street roundabout is expected to be complete by the end of September while the new roundabout at the intersection of the Pacific and Gwydir highways should be complete during the first half of 2020.