A ‘floodproof’ bridge that cost taxpayers $101million only to be submerged by raging floodwaters would have been impassable even if it was higher.
Only opened a few months ago, the Windsor Bridge in Sydney’s west, which sits over the Hawkesbury River, is very close to the floodplain suburb Wilberforce.
The river has finally stopped rising as days of torrential rain eased, but the water level is still dropping so it is not yet clear if serious damage was done.
Locals and politicians are outraged the bridge failed but defenders of the overpass have said the flooding was an extreme and rare event that couldn’t be stopped.
Windsor Bridge (pictured) was billed as ‘floodproof’ but is now underwater
When the bridge was built last year, the NSW Government said it would be better able to cope with the impacts of flooding than the original structure.
Transport for NSW said the new bridge was three metres taller than the old one, but because roads are at river level there was no point building it any higher.
The height of the bridge does not matter if the surrounding land goes underwater in a major flood, as cars won’t be able to cross it regardless.
However, the approach to the bridge on the Thompson Square side is not higher than the ground-floor levels of nearby buildings.
‘The new Windsor Bridge has the same flood immunity as the surrounding approach roads on the northern banks,’ Transport for NSW told Daily Mail Australia.
‘The current flooding event is a rare and extreme event.
The new Windsor Bridge (right) was built higher than and next to the old one (left)
The new Windsor Bridge in Sydney’s west was sold to locals as being ‘flood proof’ but is now completely submerged
‘It is anticipated the bridge, which is higher and in better condition than the former bridge, will be available to re-open sooner than would have been experienced if the former bridge had not been replaced.’
The Roads and Maritime Services said in response to protests over the bridge in 2018 that it had ‘significant concerns that in the event of a major flood, the bridge would fail, leaving the residents of Windsor without a safe crossing’.
On Monday afternoon almost the entirety of the bridge was submerged, with water levels surpassing 12m, leaving residents stranded on either side.
The ‘once-in-50-years’ storm caused flooding through large parts of NSW and Queensland with emergency services battling to save lives and homes.
More than 18,000 people were evacuated and the government called in the army to help assist as it races to defend against rising water.
The new Windsor Bridge was described by local federal MP Susan Templeman as an ‘absolutely ugly monstrosity, a slab of concrete’
The new Windsor Bridge was controversially built near its suburb’s namesake in Sydney’s west in 2019 despite outrage from locals given its price tag
Locals watch on as flood waters rise across large parts of western Sydney
Part of Thompson Square, Australia’s oldest public square at nearly 150 years old, was destroyed to make way for new roads connecting the bridge.
At the time, it was described by local federal MP Susan Templeman as an ‘absolutely ugly monstrosity, a slab of concrete’.
When the bridge was built, some locals criticised the price tag and the infrastructure linking it requiring the destruction of Thompson Square, Australia’s oldest public square.
Those roads sit lower than ground floor of nearby houses, which suffered flooding.
As a result, the bridge was swamped by huge amounts of water, which has now seen the entire stretch submerged.
Flood waters submerge the front yard and garage of a western Sydney home
‘I am not an engineer, I only work with them. But the fact that the approaches to the bridge run downhill seems to indicate a design problem,’ one observer said of the new Windsor Bridge
Locals were divided on social media over the bridge.
‘The NSW govt defended the decision to build a new Windsor Bridge (and so destroy the heritage listed, 100 years old bridge) saying it would provide better performance in flood events,’ one person tweeted.
‘It opened less than a year ago. Today, it is under water and impassable!’
Another person said: ‘For all the Govt haters, the new bridge was built to replace a very old bridge that was failing.
;They didn’t destroy any buildings. The traffic has vastly improved and it was never meant to solve for this level of flooding. No point when other side is entirely under water.’