By Michael Doran
In an act of indifference, VicRoads has dislocated a community, put the lives of school children at risk and cut-off access to the Reefton community for older residents.
In 2017 VicRoads removed the pedestrian bridge across McMahons Creek at Reefton due to safety concerns but locals are now left to wonder why the solution is more dangerous than the problem it was designed to solve.
The issue surfaced again in December when Yarra Ranges Councillor Jim Child raised a motion seeking urgent action from VicRoads and the State Government to reinstate the bridge.
“I raised the issue as an urgent council motion to write to the Minister for Roads, Jaala Pulford, the Regional Director for VicRoads and our local member Cindy McLeish,” Cr Child said. “In December Cindy McLeish presented that in parliament as a question to the minister and the minister came back with the history but no commitment to another bridge.
“We had a commitment from Vic Roads that the bridge would be reinstated so we’re asking the minister to intervene and provide funding as this has an urgency, there are kids lives at stake here.”
Member for Eildon Cindy McLeish has backed the calls and said that local residents should be disappointed that the government is disinterested in keeping all road users safe.
“Labor’s decision to remove the pedestrian bridge at McMahons Creek was done to keep local residents safe, but that has now created a dangerous situation with pedestrians being forced to now walk on the road.”
Speaking to the Victorian Parliament in December last year, Ms. McLeish called on the minister to to direct VicRoads to immediately reinstate the bridge but in reply the minister made no mention of replacing the footbridge.
Following a residents meeting on Thursday 28 February, The Mail sought a response from both VicRoads and the Minister for Roads, Jaala Pulford. At the time of writing no response has been received from the minister.
In a statement a VicRoads spokesperson said “Following expert advice, the old McMahons Creek pedestrian bridge was deemed unsafe and, after careful consideration, it was closed. In response to community concerns, safety audits have been carried out and several changes have been implemented to improve safety for local residents.”
The statement went on to say that the current 80km/h speed limit is under review and plans for a new pedestrian footbridge are currently being considered.
Resident Bodie Seller said that the creation of a new bus stop has made the situation more dangerous. “They created another bus stop but it’s on a blind corner and the kids have to get across a 80km/h road so we don’t let them catch the bus.
“There is no way for people to get around the community, there is no shoulder on the road bridge and we have log trucks, heavy haulage trucks, motorbikes and the car clubs all coming through here.
“We just want them to live up to their commitment to replace the footbridge they took from us.”