Sturt Highway closure sends traffic onto pothole-plagued back roads

Wagga councillor Rod Kendall, Lockhart shire mayor Rodger Schirmer and Coolamon shire mayor John Seymour with premier Mike Baird.

Wagga councillor Rod Kendall, Lockhart shire mayor Rodger Schirmer and Coolamon shire mayor John Seymour with premier Mike Baird.

Highway closures are taking a heavy toll on the region’s roads, driving up steep repair bills councils will struggle to pay.

Flood waters forced traffic off the Sturt Highway onto local roads between Wagga and Narrandera this week.

Canola Way in the Coolamon Shire – declared a disaster zone just last week – bore the brunt of a sudden influx of heavy trucks, causing large chunks of bitumen to break loose and flick up into windshields.

Coolamon Shire mayor John Seymour has called on the state government to cover damage incurred by the diversion of highway traffic.

“Our bitumen roads are not standing up and our gravel roads have fallen in a heap,” Cr Seymour said.

“Canola Way is saturated and this high volume of heavy traffic and trucks is accelerating deterioration; from potholes to the road actually crumbling apart.

“October is supposed to get wet, which is going to make the situation even worse.

“Everywhere the water has gone across gravel roads, it's virtually washed the road away.”

Ariah Park farmer Darryl Harper said the state of the roads was worrying rural contractors gearing up to wind row winter crops  – that survived flooding – in the next two to three weeks.

Bland Shire Council general manager Ray Smith expects the damage bill will be in the “tens of millions” and is considering slugging agribusiness a tariff to offset B-doubles plying local roads during harvest.

Coolamon, Junee, Narrandera, Bland, Cootamundra-Gundagai, Hilltops and Temora councils have all been declared disaster zones, making them eligible for joint state and federal emergency funding.

Most councils will apportion all emergency funding to repair ruined roads.

Wagga council is in the throes of assessing the damage to its sprawling 2119 kilometre road network in a bid to qualify for funding.

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