Plans to build the new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge on the chosen route, the commonly referred to ‘grey’ route next to the existing traffic bridge, are continuing with VicRoads in the process of finalising a referral to the planning minister regarding an Environmental Effects Statement.
According to VicRoads Regional Director Nicki Kyriakou work on the project continues behind the scenes and does so despite plans for a Moira Shire Council plebiscite on the bridge route.
“We are currently in the process of finalising the Environment Effects Statement (EES) referral to be presented to the Minister for Planning,” Ms Kyriakou said.
“We have heard from the community that getting trucks out of Belmore Street is a high priority.
“We’re exploring options to begin work on a connection between the existing bridge and the Murray Valley Highway.
“The route will remove trucks and reduce traffic congestion from Belmore Street, Yarrawonga and provide safer and more efficient traffic flows between Mulwala, Yarrawonga and the Murray Valley Highway.”
The selected route for the construction of a new Yarrawonga Mulwala bridge has been the subject of debate among the community, two state governments and two local councils since three routes – the green, grey and yellow - were shortlisted from an initial six options in 2011.
In 2014, the Victoria Roads Minister of the day announced the green route (next to the existing weir crossing) as the preferred bridge option.
A year later, almost to the day in 2015, the new and current Victorian Roads Minister reversed the decision and announced the grey route had been selected for the construction of the new bridge.
In 2016, a group of residents and business owners engaged the services of a private traffic and planning consultant to assess and possibly challenge the Victorian Government decision to build the bridge on the grey route. The findings of the consultant have not been released publicly.
In February this year, Moira Shire Councillors voted unanimously to undertake a localised, Yarrawonga plebiscite on the preferred bridge route.
The vote is non-binding and expected to be conducted in the next few months with the scope and timing yet to be finalised.
In May, Moira Shire received a petition signed by 35 people asking council to change its stance on the bridge route debate from historical support of the green route to the state-government selected grey route.
Among several points listed in the petition was the concern that support of the green route was detrimental to local business particularly with the removal of the existing traffic bridge once a new bridge is built.
While the local debate continues, VicRoads has been relatively quiet on the subject in recent months though, according to Ms Kyriakou, the authority continues to work on the planning for the new bridge and Murray Valley Highway connection.
Ms Kyriakou said Moira Shire Council’s planned community plebiscite aimed to “inform council’s position on the new bridge alignment” meanwhile “VicRoads is continuing with the planning study for the new bridge”.
“The new alignment – the grey route – has been supported by both the Victorian and NSW Governments,” she said.
“The existing bridge will be removed once the new bridge is constructed.
“VicRoads will seek community involvement on aspects of the design, look and feel of the new bridge and Murray Valley Highway connection.”