Bridge a promise government should keep

Mandurah residents are eagerly awaiting the announcement of the start of the State Government’s promised duplication of the Mandurah Estuary Bridge. 

The bridge crosses the Peel-Harvey Estuary from the Dudley Park area into Erskine, and is one of only two bridges in Mandurah which links the southern island to the north. 

The area near the Mandurah Estuary Bridge is a popular walking area and place for boat launches. Photo: Kasey Gratton.

Two lanes of northbound and southbound traffic from Mandurah Road feed into both sides of the bridge, which has two southbound lanes but only one northbound lane.

The merging required to form the single northbound lane frequently causes traffic jams during peak hours on weekdays and on public holidays. 

The infamous merging spot in the northbound lanes before the bridge. Photo: Kasey Gratton.

During the state election campaign in February, Premier Mark McGowan described the current state of the traffic bridge as “frustrating” for Mandurah residents and said the State Government would improve the bridge “straight away” if re-elected.

At the time Mr McGowan said State and Federal Governments would split funding for the project, with WA Labor pledging $55 million towards duplicating the existing Estuary Bridge.

The announcement caused excitement for Mandurah residents, but there have yet to be any further announcements about the project.

Jim Booker, the president of the residents association for Port Mandurah, which covers the canals area between the two bridges in Mandurah, says his suburb is burdened by the many commuters who take an alternative route through it to avoid the Estuary bridge and instead cross the estuary via the Mandurah Traffic Bridge which was updated in 2018. 

“You get a lot of traffic going through our suburb that otherwise wouldn’t go through it, and that traffic bypassing the bridge goes through the town of Mandurah, which is not advantageous at that time of the day,” he says. 

Asset manager of structures for Main Roads South-West Peter Newhouse says minimal planning and design has started for the duplication of the bridge. 

He says the project will likely take five years from start to finish. 

“There’s a fair bit involved because it’s not just building another bridge, it’s also doing the roadworks at either end so the new bridge can tie into the existing road network.”

The current estuary bridge was completed in 1987 and was the first large bridge to be built incrementally in Australia.

At the time the design was regarded as innovative, according to Mr Newhouse. 

“Up until then, all the big bridges in Perth, for example the Narrows Bridge, were built in position, which required temporary structural supports that you build the bridge on top of and then remove once the bridge is in place.”

Building the bridge incrementally avoids the need for structural supports, which Mr Newhouse says provides a more environmentally friendly option by minimising the impact of the construction on the estuary.

The bridge is nearby the Samphire Cove Nature Reserve.

Mr Newhouse says the duplicated Estuary Bridge would be constructed in the same manner as the original. 

“There might be some minor improvements to the design, but generally it would look very similar to the existing one,” Mr Newhouse said.

Mandurah residents who were walking along the edge of the estuary near the southern end of the bridge in Erskine this morning were generally unconcerned with the design of the new bridge,  with most instead stressing the proposal needed to be put into action.

One man described an upgrade to the bridge as “well overdue”, which was echoed by Jim Booker. 

“To have a three lane bridge there is really quite inadequate, and it was from the outset. It was virtually outdated the day it was built, in terms of its capacity to handle the traffic required.”

Mandurah residents discuss the issues they currently face with the Estuary Bridge. Video: Kasey Gratton.

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