Second expert queries bridge safety

A second bridge expert has queried the safety of Wilson Way in Blaxland.

Don Carter, the former manager of bridge technology at the then Roads and Traffic Authority, with 48 years experience in bridge engineering, said there had been no report results provided which countered the findings of the consultant’s report that said the load capacity of the bridge was 13 tonnes.

"Until such time as there is a statement from Sydney Trains providing the result of their load capacity assessment, the consultant’s report stands.”

Mr Carter agreed with Dr Eric Ancich, a retired bridge structural engineer who also worked at the RTA, who said authorities would have acted “the next day” if they had received such a report.

Mr Carter said: “At the RTA, a load limit would have been imposed immediately until the consultant’s load capacity assessment could be reviewed... It’s about risk minimisation."

“Council should request Sydney Trains to provide the results of their load capacity assessment to provide public assurance that the bridge is safe to carry current loads.

“Council could be sitting on a liability issue,” he said.

“Until council has information from Sydney Trains to counter the consultant’s report, it has a responsibility to impose the load limit." 

Mr Carter said he had seen semi-trailers using the bridge. A fully-laden semi could have a mass of up to 42.5 tonnes. 

School buses and other large trucks heading for the Blaxland tip also use Wilson Way.

The alternative route – via Layton Avenue near McDonalds – involves travelling through a narrow underpass. 

The report was commissioned by council to look at five bridges which had been identified as having potential safety concerns: Wilson Way, Green Parade in Valley Heights, Station Street in Wentworth Falls, Station Street in Blackheath and Park Road Woodford (which has since been upgraded).

Dr Ancich, who obtained the report only after a lengthy freedom of information battle, warned of the potential “carnage” if Wilson Way failed while a school bus was travelling over it.

Sydney Trains did not specifically address the load capacity issue. In a statement a spokesman said the bridges “met Asset Standards Authority safety standards”.

Council said it had asked Sydney Trains (which owns the bridge – council is responsible for signs, markings, footpaths etc) for options for mitigation, management and/or treatment.

Many people commented on the dangers at some of the bridges after the Gazette story was published. One had part of his car smashed by the tail end of a large truck as he waited for it to cross Wilson Way (see letters p24).