Built in 1880 the Brig O'Johnston Bridge is the oldest surviving timber truss bridge in NSW and has had a weight limit since at least 2014 and its rehabilitation work was delayed at one stage by a bat colony.
The state government came on board with funding for a new bridge in 2017 and more funds flowed from the federal government last year.
Dungog Shire Council has engaged independent contractors, OzArk, to undertake pre-construction activities, including a Review of Environmental Factors, Statement of Heritage Impact and Aboriginal Due Diligence investigations regarding the protection of Aboriginal objects within the area.
Dungog mayor John Connors said he was pleased to see the pre-construction work start on a new river crossing.
"The bridge over the Williams River is an invaluable community asset, and yet another example of the way we're working to ensure a safe, modern and resilient road and bridge network for every motorist that travels through our shire," he said.
Council's general manager, Gareth Curtis, said the preliminary work is well underway, with further onsite investigations to continue in coming months.
"All pre-construction works for the new Clarence Town Bridge are progressing to schedule, with the Environmental Assessment commenced and the Statement of Heritage Impact completed," he said.
"An Aboriginal Due Diligence Report has also been completed, with recommendations for further investigations at the site.
"We're working in consultation with Aboriginal groups in the area and will soon commence field work and an excavation dig onsite to determine whether any items of interest are uncovered."
Executive Manager Infrastructure and Assets, Steve Hitchens, said any that discovery of such items would require further liaison.
"This process incorporates a number of consultation steps and discovery of any significant items will require further consultation with Aboriginal groups and NSW Heritage, and may alter the final bridge location," says Mr Hitchens.
"Completion of this work will allow us to finalise the Environmental Assessments and progress to the next stage of the project."
Following these investigations, council will progress other pre-construction activities. These include:
- . Commencing geotechnical investigations
- . Finalising bridge alignment
- . Completing a detailed concept design; and
- . Commencing discussions with property owners.
Construction of the new Clarence Town Bridge is a $14.3million project, with $8.8M from the Australian Government, $5.5M from the NSW Government, and the project managed by Dungog Shire Council, with assistance from Transport for NSW (TfNSW).
Heritage legislation requires the old bridge to be maintained and remain in operation. TfNSW will continue to monitor and maintain the bridge.