THE first stage in the much-anticipated Foster to Welshpool Great Southern Rail Trail Extension Project is close to completion with the official opening due to take place in mid June.
The first sod of earth was turned on the trail extension back in February and all committee members, Friends of the Rail Trail and those eager to make use of the wonderful asset are looking forward to the fourth in a series of new bridge installations which will complete the Foster to Toora stage of the $2.9 million project.
Extensive testing and investigation was carried out on the four existing bridges to determine if they could be repaired but tests showed this to be unviable due to safety concerns and the expected need for ongoing costly maintenance.
The new bridges have been designed and constructed by Open Space Infrastructure Australia, a Victorian design and construction firm. Civil works including 8.6km of clearing, trail construction and drainage have been carried out by Allens Contracting of Leongatha.
The third and largest of the four bridges was installed last week and now spans the Franklin River in the vicinity of Lower Franklin Road. The bridge is over 60 metres in length and has been positioned at the same height as its predecessor at around 10 metres above the river bed.
The fourth and final bridge in this first stage of the project will soon be positioned requiring just the final touches to be completed prior to the official opening.
As heavy machinery is being used to carry out the works, those interested in viewing the bridges are advised to wait until the opening to ensure that all safety measures are in place.
“We are very happy with the Shire’s response to the project and with the construction of the bridges,” said committee secretary Kevin Flett.
“It appears that this stage will be completed before winter sets in and then work on tenders and contracts can be put in place over the colder months, enabling design and construction on Stage 2 to begin in summer,” he said.
The next stage of the project will involve work on the 4.5km section from Toora to Agnes which will require three new bridges. Stage 3 will see a 5.4km section linking Agnes with Welshpool and placement of five new bridges. It is envisaged that the project will be completed within three years.
In total, once completed the Rail Trail extension will be 18.51km in length. To make this a reality, all vegetation across the existing track must be removed, concrete and timber culverts cleaned or replaced, gravel laid and in all – 12 bridges constructed, bringing the total cost of the project to the estimated $2.9million.
Once work is completed, is expected to generate around $5.5 million within the regional economy through tourism related activities and with the additional numbers using the trail comes the opportunity of creating a new life for the neglected land around the old Railway Station in Foster.
The Foster Community House will be hosting an information session at the old station this Sunday (May 19) at 11.30am. Everyone is welcome to attend to find share ideas and to enjoy a free barbecue (courtesy of the Foster CFA).