The tiny pitstop of Bullaburra is a blink and you will miss-it kind of town between Lawson and Wentworth Falls.
But Bullaburra is now firmly in the spotlight as the first issue to divide Blue Mountains councillors seven weeks after the election. The issue is the $3million pedestrian bridge due to be built as part of the Great Western Highway widening. Some councillors are asking whether it is in the right place, whether traffic lights with pedestrian access would have been better and how it all came about?
Labor councillor Romola Hollywood and Greens councillor Geordie Williamson have called on the NSW Government to consult further with the community — a motion passed with support of other Labor, Greens and Independent councillors.
“It may be quixotic, it may well be a done deal but at the least the people will know we tried,” Clr Williamson said when voting with Clr Hollywood.
But Liberal councillor Chris Van der Kley and his colleagues are against the move and don’t want the highway upgrade delayed.
“The community consultation on this project has been going as long as I have been on the council for the last 13 years,” Clr Van der Kley said.
“To cut a long story short there was consultation, community meetings and they don’t all agree but we’ve done the final assessments, the RMS has made a final decision, it’s the only space they can build it because of disability access and standards.
“We can’t hold up this work and push it out for another year — it’s the link between Wentworth Falls and Lawson. I understand where Clr Hollywood is coming from, what she says is absolutely correct, but unfortunately I can’t support it.”
During her campaign to get elected Clr Hollywood said a number of local residents had raised concerns about “insufficient consultation” over the Bullaburra East highway upgrade bridge which would “significantly lengthen the distance people (particularly frail and aged) will have to walk to get across the highway”, a bridge that would not be “in a central location close to where the majority of residents live.”
One affected resident is high school teacher Gillian Langlands who lives on the highway and whose property will be devalued by up to $30,000 when the bridge is built close to her front yard.
Ms Langlands calls the development “inappropriate” and “an outrageous waste of taxpayer’s money”.
“These bridges are appropriately built at locations of high pedestrian traffic such as business areas, schools and railway stations, not at the front door of private residences,” she said.
The Roads and Maritime Services had “consistently argued against an overpass on the basis that it is very costly, benefits a small number of people and other less expensive options exist” but in 2011 a review recommended the new option of a bridge, she said.
“Given that there is already going to be traffic lights at Cooranga Street which is directly across from the station, logic says that a pedestrian crossing should be put there.”
Blue Mountains MP Roza Sage supports the footbridge and told the Gazette in July this year that “this section of the Great Western Highway would have an 80km/h speed limit, so separating pedestrians and vehicles on the highway at this speed makes sense.”
“It’s the safest road crossing option.”
Clr Hollywood said safety was a big concern for the area and “indeed further down the highway at the intersection of the highway and Park Road, near the rural fire station, we are seeing the promised traffic lights on the highway downgraded to a seagull crossing.”
The Gazette has put a number of questions to Roads Minister Duncan Gay and has also put in calls to the RMS project manager and was still waiting for responses at the time of going to press.
Mr Gay has gone on record as saying the bridge is “the best option”.
Springwood residents are also angry about the bridge for Bullaburra, as they have been fighting since 2005 to have a bridge over the highway in their area, where pedestrian accidents have occurred on at least two occasions (2006 and 2008).
Attempts to contact the Bullaburra Township Committee, some of whom have previously supported the bid, failed.
Contracts for construction for the Bullaburra bridge will be signed by the second week of November.
“I think it’s a fait accompli,” said Clr Van der Kley.
A community meeting is planned at the Bullaburra Progress Association Hall on November 4 to discuss the issue.