Historic Nowra Bridge repurposing
The heritage listed Nowra Bridge crosses the Shoalhaven River and is an unofficial gateway to the South Coast. The historic bridge opened in 1881 and is a rare example of a pin-jointed Whipple truss bridge. Now that the new Nowra Bridge is open, the historic bridge has been retired from road traffic and will be repurposed for future use by the community.
May 2023 - Historic Nowra Bridge retires from road traffic
In late February 2023, the new Nowra Bridge opened to traffic and the historic Nowra Bridge was retired from road traffic. When major work on the Nowra Bridge project is complete in late 2023, the rehabilitation and repurposing of the old bridge can begin.
View the latest Nowra Bridge project community update (PDF, 1.38 MB) (PDF, 1.38 MB)for the latest information.
August 2022 - Summary of historic Nowra Bridge community consultation
A summary report detailing feedback from over 1,200 people on the future of the historic Nowra Bridge has been published. Feedback included wide ranging suggestions on how best to preserve and respect the heritage of the bridge, as well as explore opportunities the bridge offers for the local community and tourism. View the Historic Nowra Bridge Community Consultation Summary Report (PDF, 6.93Mb).
A new life for the old Nowra Bridge
The Nowra Bridge project will provide a new four lane bridge over the Shoalhaven River and upgrades to over 1.7 kilometres of the Princes Highway, including improved intersections and additional lanes.
The $342 million project will improve traffic flow and ease congestion on a major section of the Princes Highway and deliver safer, more reliable journeys within the Nowra-Bomaderry area.
The project’s need is based on the replacement of the existing historic southbound bridge which is in poor condition, has substantial maintenance costs, restrictions on overheight and overmass vehicles, and has reached the end of its serviceable life.
In February 2023, the new Nowra Bridge opened to traffic and the historic bridge was retired from road traffic.
The future of the historic bridge has been the subject of extensive investigations. In late 2014 during the early planning stages of the Nowra Bridge project, community feedback was sought to inform a decision to retain, relocate or remove the bridge. The majority of submissions received indicated the bridge should be retained and a number of key themes emerged from suggestions on how the bridge could be used. The submissions report from this consultation can be viewed in project documents.
In 2018 a decision was made to retain the bridge and repurpose it as a dedicated pedestrian and cyclist path. This decision was based on the historical significance and heritage value of the bridge, while also taking into consideration the expected benefits and community feedback.
In late 2021 and early 2022, the community was invited to make suggestions on what opportunities the repurposing creates, and what else could be included to create a sustainable, flexible and exciting future for the historic bridge. A report summarising the over 1,200 submissions has been published and can be viewed in project documents.
Before the historic bridge moves into its next phase of life, essential maintenance work, including lead paint removal and repainting, is required. We are carrying out investigations and will prepare a plan for the repair and rehabilitation of the bridge.
Community feedback will inform the Review of Environmental Factors (REF) and the repurposing proposal which will be published in 2023.
Frequently asked questions
- What will happen to the historic Nowra Bridge?
The historic bridge was retired from road traffic when the new Nowra Bridge opened in February 2023.
The future of the bridge has been the subject of extensive investigations and in 2018 it was recommended the bridge be retained and repurposed as a dedicated pedestrian and cyclist path
The decision was based on the historical significance and heritage value of the bridge, while also taking into consideration the expected benefits and community feedback.
What happens next?
The historic bridge is closed to road traffic and pedestrians while major work on the Nowra Bridge project continues. When major work is completed in late 2023, work to rehabilitate the historic bridge can begin.
Investigations are underway and a program of maintenance work is being developed. Community feedback on the repurposing of the historic bridge will inform the Review of Environmental Factors (REF). The REF will assess the environmental, social and economic impacts of the work.
Why is the bridge being repurposed instead of removed or used for more lanes of road traffic?
Community consultation carried out in 2014 showed a strong majority of people wanted to see the historic bridge retained. The bridge has reached the end of its serviceable life for road traffic. The 142 year old design is unsuitable for modern traffic needs and it's weight and size limits restrict the flow of heavy vehicles across the Shoalhaven River and down the south coast.
What maintenance work is required to repurpose the bridge?
Inspections are being carried out to inform the rehabilitation and maintenance works required. These investigations include above and below water inspections as well as structural analysis.
The historic bridge will require some critical repairs prior to any repurposing, including the removal of lead paint and repainting. The full extent of work will be assessed in the Review of Environmental Factors.
Work to prepare the bridge and repaint it is estimated to take around 18 months to two years.
How big is the historic bridge?
The historic bridge is around six metres wide and 342 metres long.
What is the heritage value of the bridge?
The bridge is a rare example of a pin-jointed Whipple truss bridge and is listed on a number of heritage registers as having both local and state significance, including Transport's Section 170 Heritage and Conservation Register.
When it opened in 1881 the old bridge was the largest bridge project in New South Wales. It was also the only steel truss bridge of its kind to be used for road traffic in the state.
Does the heritage significance limit repurposing options?
The historical and structural significance of the bridge was a key factor in the decision to retain it and limits the repurposing options. Any proposal will need to be sympathetic to the bridge's existing heritage value and appearance.
There are also opportunities to celebrate the bridge’s heritage through the repurposing and will be considered in the repurposing proposal.
Can there be markets on the bridge?
As the historic bridge is only around six metres wide and the area is prone to strong gusts of wind, it is unsafe to have market stalls set up along the bridge. There are also environmental concerns including the risk of large amounts of rubbish falling or blowing into the Shoalhaven River and contaminating the catchment area.
Why can’t the bridge be used for rail or overflow traffic?
The historic bridge has reached the end of its serviceable life for heavy vehicle traffic and would not be able to withstand the weight and motion impacts of a modern passenger or freight train.
The bridge is operationally unsuitable to cater for future traffic demands or rail usage and will be replaced by the new four lane bridge.
The Future Transport Strategy 2056 does not identify extending the South Coast Rail line south into Nowra or further as an initiative for investigation in the short, medium or long term.
Who will maintain the historic bridge once it has been repurposed?
The historic bridge will remain a Transport for NSW asset after repair and repurposing is complete. Transport for NSW will be responsible for the ongoing maintenance of the structure and foundations.
Transport for NSW will work together with Shoalhaven City Council on the repurposing to ensure it fits with council’s broader plans for the foreshore.
How much will it cost to repurpose the bridge?
Final cost of the repurposing will be highly dependent on the purpose and design chosen for the bridge. Community feedback will help shape the concept and design of this repurposing work.
There are some critical maintenance activities required to ensure the bridge is safe for ongoing use. This includes lead paint removal and repainting which could be $15-25 million, with the full extent of work required to be assessed through further investigations.
When will the bridge be ready to use in its repurposed state?
Now that traffic has moved off the historic bridge and onto the new four lane bridge, further investigations into the required maintenance work can be carried out. Work on the historic bridge can begin after major work on the Nowra Bridge project has been completed in late 2023.
It is estimated repairs to the historic Nowra Bridge could take 18 months to two years.
We will continue to keep the community and stakeholders informed of progress on the bridge repurposing.
How can I stay informed?
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- December 2021 project update
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For further information about this project, please contact:
Mail: Nowra Bridge project, PO Box 477 Wollongong NSW 2520