Plans in place to reconnect flood damaged Great Northern Highway in Western Australia

A barge will be called in to take vehicles across the Fitzroy River as work commences on the replacement of the flood damaged Fitzroy Crossing Bridge

After an extreme once-in-a-100-years flooding event devastated sections of the Great Northern Highway that runs through Fitzroy Crossing in Northern Western Australia the local government has announced plans for a workable solution that should see the highway reconnected.

Western Australian Transport minister Rita Saffioti says the State Government plans to implement a barge system across the Fitzroy river, which will initially be operated by tugs, with a cable system to be operationalised shortly after. 

Saffioti says the barge system can be adapted when the river levels fall too low by using portable pontoons which would act as a temporary crossing. 

The barge will be used while Main Roads constructs a low-level floodway crossing, which will provide a more permanent option while the full replacement of the Fitzroy Crossing Bridge is undertaken. 

“This historic event has caused significant disruption on our road network, but I want to commend Main Roads and its partner agencies for working as quickly as possible as they look to put in place temporary solutions that allow for the reconnection of the road,” Saffioti says. 

“I also want to thank the community for their patience – we will work as fast as we can to implement these solutions but being in the middle of the wet season, there remains the possibility of significant rainfall events in the coming weeks and months which could disrupt works.”

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Main Roads will work with industry to ensure transport operators are briefed on the operation of the barge system and is currently assessing options for breakdown areas for trucks on approach to Fitzroy Crossing. 

Planning for a new bridge across the Fitzroy River is well underway. The new bridge will need to be higher and longer, and will be dual-lane, rather than the current single-lane bridge. 

Member for Kimberley Divina D’Anna says there is much to learned from such a rare weather event. 

“It is now clear there is a need for a new bridge. This will be a long-term project and I recognise the need for interim solutions in the meantime, that apply learnings from this flood event. 

“While this has been a devastating event for the Kimberley, there are opportunities for our community to benefit from the training and employment that will come with the rebuild effort, and I’ll be advocating strongly to relevant Ministers within our government to make sure that happens,” D’Anna says. 

Meanwhile, heavy machinery and a 40-person strong road reconstruction crew continue to carry out repair works on the severely damaged section of the Great Northern Highway through Willare. 

The crews are working from both ends of a damaged 10-kilometre section of the highway and will be putting in place temporary gravel roads to allow for the reconnection between Broome, Derby and Fitzroy Crossing. 

It’s anticipated the works on the Willare section will take around four weeks to complete, with planning underway for a full road rebuild to begin in the dry season. 

Saffioti says there is still much work to be done. 

“This will be the first time a barge system like this has been operated in this part of our State, so the final configuration and operation will depend largely on the conditions on the ground. 

“Assessments of the existing bridge have been completed, and Main Roads has determined that given the significant damage, a full rebuild is the only feasible option. 

“Importantly, we will be looking to work closely with Traditional Owner groups on key cultural heritage issues, and to ensure that out of this emergency, we are creating employment and training opportunities for the local Indigenous communities.”



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