Transport for NSW proposes changes to bridge project

An extra 300 metres could be taken off Windsor's historic Thompson Square to accommodate future traffic needs in the area, sparking outrage from Macquarie MP Susan Templeman.

In a speech to Federal Parliament posted on social media today (Wednesday, October 23), Ms Templeman said she had "just learned that more terrible decision making is happening" around the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project.

Outraged : Macquarie MP Susan Templeman told Federal Parliament Thompson Square would lose more ground to the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project. Picture: Geoff Jones.

Outraged : Macquarie MP Susan Templeman told Federal Parliament Thompson Square would lose more ground to the Windsor Bridge Replacement Project. Picture: Geoff Jones.

"I'm outraged to hear that the RMS has just admitted it needs to take an extra 300 metres off Thompson Square because the intersection at George Street will otherwise fail to meet the traffic needs," she told the Lower House.

"It was obvious from the start of this project that you couldn't merge two lanes to one lane at an intersection just in front of a bridge.

"It was always a bad plan and the RMS denied that. But you have to ask, was this their plan all along? Is this why they had 130 million [dollars] contingency in this project, and if it was, why was none of this disclosed to the Hawkesbury community?

"The lack of transparency on this project by the NSW Government has been shameful from the start. The community has fought to save this historic square from this appalling modern concrete monolith going through.

"Now we know even less of the oldest public square in Australia will be available for the community. It's an outrage and it should never be happening, we should've had a bypass there from the start."

Transport for NSW issued a statement saying it had proposed changes to the project's design "as a result of new traffic studies carried out in 2017 and 2019" that would "allow for a northbound merge lane near the intersection of Bridge and George streets to allow more vehicles to travel through.

"This change would improve traffic flow and safety for all motorists heading towards Freemans Reach and Wilberforce as well as the wider road network," the statement said.

Change: The design change proposed for the Windsor Bridge replacement project. Picture: Transport for NSW.

Change: The design change proposed for the Windsor Bridge replacement project. Picture: Transport for NSW.

The proposed "traffic design improvement" states the "strip of extra space needed for the merge lane will reduce the Thompson Square parkland by 160 square metres.

"However, the access and amenity of Thompson Square as per the approved project will be maintained," the document states. "Any further visual impact from the proposed design change has been assessed in the modification report as being minor.

"The proposed design change still results in an increase to the overall unified open space in Thompson Square. The unified open space in the square at the end of the project will be 3780 square metres. Importantly though, the space will be unified and useable."

Hawkesbury MP Robyn Preston said she was aware the changes would not be well received by those passionate about Thompson Square.

"This is a really sensitive issue and any changes are going to be received ... with caution," she said. "I can understand that, but we have to get this right.

"The RMS realised there would be some push back but we really do have to get this right."

More than 25,000 northbound vehicles would use the bridge each day by 2026, "so it is important to ensure this section of road is ready for future traffic volumes", Transport for NSW stated.

The southern end of the existing Windsor Bridge would also be retained as a viewing platform, it stated.

"The platform will preserve the nature of the existing bridge as well as show the 1897 increased bridge height of 2.4 metres at the pier and the 1922 concrete deck," the statement said.

But Community Action for Windsor Bridge (CAWB) called for the State Government to "come clean" over the issue.

"... At the 11th hour, with the bridge deck already across the river, the RMS is applying to the Department of Planning to change the plans and steal a chunk of Thompson Square parkland in order to squeeze another lane into Bridge Street," the group stated.

"Our calculations indicate the cost of this is the loss of around 300 square metres of parkland in Thompson Square.

"For years CAWB has advised the RMS their traffic data is underdone, but it is only as this embarrassingly incompetent infrastructure nears completion they finally admit their approved plans can't cope with traffic volumes.

"It is time for the Berejiklian Government to come clean and explain why Windsor had to be destroyed for a bridge in the wrong place."

Feedback on the design change open until November 7, and will be considered before the proposed modification is finalised. Comments on the design and further details can be provided to the Department of Planning, Infrastructure and Environment at https://www.planningportal.nsw.gov.au/major-projects/project/25556.