By Thomas Serafin
GYMPIE Road businesses on Brisbane’s northside have welcomed the construction of the A.J Wyllie bridge, scheduled for January, but expressed angst at the 12 months it will take to complete.
Caltex Woolworths Lawnton service station owner Troy Stewart says his business has suffered significant losses when the bridge was closed earlier this year and still struggles with low trade eight months on.
“It has been really tough these past months, and we are just really hoping for a good summer,” he said.
Mr Stewart says 15 months is a long time to get through, but there is not much else that can be done.
“We just have to ride it out,” he said.
State Member for Pine Rivers Carolyn Male says the Queensland Government is progressing different stages of the bridge reconstruction at the same time to accelerate the $32 million construction process as part of ‘Operation Queenslander’.
“The community can expect to see works occurring in the vicinity of the bridge in coming months, ahead of demolition,” Ms Male said.
“Our intention is to have the new bridge completed in late 2012.”
While preliminary work has begun with the relocation of sewer and water pipes, the biggest concern for the area is what would happen if there was another flood or delay in construction.
Drummond Gold owner Terry Young says the consequences would have severe implications.
“I just don’t think we would make it, especially considering this business is very subject to weather conditions,” Mr Young said.
Mr Young, who has had to cut back staff hours, says if the construction is delayed beyond the 12 months, he will not renew his lease and will have to relocate elsewhere.
“The Government is saying it will take 12 months but any longer than that and we will have to consider other options,” he said.
Mr Young says at this stage, he accepts construction will take time and is grateful for the limited support provided.
“At the end of the day, we can only do what is humanely possible,” he said.
Lawnton resident Liam Stoyle says the wait for the new bridge is frustrating.
“It is a total pain travelling anywhere between the river and I can understand why people want to avoid the area altogether,” Mr Stoyle said.
LNP Opposition representative for Pine Rivers, Seath Holswich, says there could be repercussions if the bridge was delayed any longer than currently proposed.
“I have spoken to many businesses that will not renew their leases if there is any longer delay,” Mr Holswich said.
“The next 15 months are critical, and Main Roads must get this right.
“Once they leave, it will be difficult to get our businesses back.”
Mr Holswich says he and his Kallangur candidate counterpart, Trevor Ruthenberg, are actively pursuing options to ensure construction is not delayed and businesses can continue to operate by considering more community support initiatives.
“We are thinking of conducting a similar ‘buy local’ campaign we ran some months ago,” he said.
State Member for Kallangur Mary-Anne O’Neill says she has met with Main Roads Department several times regarding concerns that businesses have raised about the impact of traffic.
“We understand the wait [for the new bridge] is frustrating a lot of people, but Government is doing all it can to minimise the impact, both on commuters and businesses alike, and we will keep the community informed as to the progress,” Ms O’Neill said.
“The Department of Employment, Economic Development and Innovation continues to make itself available to local businesses to assist them with any difficulties, and I encourage them to stay in contact.”
Updates on the northbound bridge reconstruction are available on a web page specifically created for the construction project.
There is also a free SMS service available that provides updates as works progress.