Bowraville's Lanes Bridge officially opened by Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan

Brett and Jean Goodwin, Fred Johnson and Myron Kelsey
Brett and Jean Goodwin, Fred Johnson and Myron Kelsey

It was a huge gamble that paid off.

There's a wealth of talent amongst our council workers, but Lanes Bridge was the first time a construction of this enormity was taken on completely in-house.

Normally, when a job is contracted out, if the cost blows out it's on the contractor's head to wear. But this time around, the $2.7 million bridge needed to stay on target - or it would've been our citizens digging into their pockets.

But without the risk the bridge wouldn't have been built, at least not this year; using the skillset of our own meant a significant reduction in the $4-5 million quote for the job, and made the project affordable.

The engineering team said they're just happy to see it done, and to no longer have to make monthly trips out to perform maintenance on the old wooden structure.

And today, the bridge crew got to soak up the well-earned praise for their efforts as the suits descended on Bowraville to cut the shiny blue ribbon at a very well-attended community opening.

"People might think that this is just a bridge opening, but it's so much more than that," Member for Cowper Pat Conaghan said.

"What we have here is a bridge that was long overdue, but now there's a safer commute for the locals of Bowraville, there's easier access with the bicycle path on the side so our kids can come and go without worrying about the traffic. What we also have is a great example of local, state and federal governments working together to achieve a really important project.

"This is the only time you'll hear me say that I'm glad it hasn't rained, because it's meant that the project has been done on time, and in budget."

Mayor Rhonda Hoban said this was a "once-in-a-lifetime event", with the new bridge having an anticipated lifespan of 100 years.

"The old bridge was around 90-years-old. I can honestly say it was the bane of my life."

"I remember coming up here one time and the entire deck of the old Lanes Bridge was up at right angles. And I was actually somewhat pleased, I thought 'thank goodness, at last we might get some disaster funding'. But I have to pay tribute to whoever it was that built it in the first place, because I couldn't believe it when staff told me it sat straight back down on top and in place. I just thought 'oh gosh, what's it gonna take?'"

But the old bridge has finally had its last crossing - and the angry troll who lives underneath and terrorises the locals might just have to find a new source of revenue.

The vast concrete expanse that has put it out of the job has some pretty legendary figures of its own attached to it. It stretches 60 metres in length, is 1.75 metres higher than the wooden structure, and has used some 950 tonnes of concrete.

Jean Goodwin has lived on Cook Street since she came out to Bowraville after World War II and said she never thought she'd see this day come.

Jean's son Brett said he used to ride down on his bike to measure the flood levels when the sergeant wanted to keep dry. He remembers one time the water reaching the intersection of Cook St.

Fred Johnson was also at the opening ceremony this morning and remembers having to rebuild the old bridge quite a few times during his tenure with the council.

Myron Kelsey said he's seen a lot in his 95 years living in Bowraville. He remembers when folks used to have to cross the river in a boat.

"They used to row over it in flood times. And one big flood, the boat nearly got away from them. They got out alright in the end, but that was a pretty big flood."

Merv Lynch and friend crossing the flood waters in canoe - the bridge posts are just visible in the background.

Merv Lynch and friend crossing the flood waters in canoe - the bridge posts are just visible in the background.

One little fella wasn't so lucky, however. In the sixties the town was beset by tragedy when a primary school-aged boy slipped through the barriers as he peered down to look at the flood water.

"A lot of people came down to search, but they couldn't find him. It was a terrible day," Jean Goodwin said.

The new bridge won't keep above every flood to come, but the added couple of metres in height is sure to make a difference.

And no longer will the town need to keep a boat handy.

Edit: This article has been corrected on August 27, 2019. It originally stated the bridge had been raised 2.75 metres. That is incorrect, the correct measurement is 1.75 metres.

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