WHEN people talk about a piece of infrastructure for half a century, it’s easy to see why frustration mounts when it doesn’t get built.
Those facing the two-hour-and-20-minute drive between Orange and Mudgee on a regular basis must curse the fact that a simple crossing over the Macquarie River could save them 80 kilometres.
That’s almost half the trip.
But the fact is it’s not that simple.
Sure, creating a crossing makes perfect sense, but to what standard?
The main factors to consider are the type of road and the type of river crossing.
At the moment, Long Point Road on the Orange side and Ullamalla Road on the Hill End side are mostly unsealed and the crossing itself is only accessible with a proper four-wheel drive – not even an all-wheel drive SUV can do it.
A regular car undoubtedly prefers bitumen and regular travel on dirt roads will eventually affect its mechanical condition and longevity.
But it can handle an unsealed road to a point, as long as the driver takes it slow.
A causeway will suffice in dry weather, but a bridge will enable the crossing to be used in all conditions.
Those who are arguing for a more primitive solution in the interests of getting it done say a causeway would cater for current traffic volumes.
But would it cater for future growth?
That’s why we need to see this feasibility study.
Anyone given the choice of halving their trip will want to take it so what we need the study to tell us is how much the traffic would increase with a safe crossing.
It would be a shame to spend money on a causeway when projected traffic volumes justify a bridge.
On the other side of the spectrum, government needs to be serious about the project.
If desperation is forcing stakeholders to reach for a compromise, money needs to be committed sooner rather than later, otherwise a causeway may well be the better option simply to get something there.
It has been more than a year since the study was announced and we are still waiting.
The question of the road surface can be a matter for another day as sealing can happen at any time.
But the matter of the crossing should not wait.