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June 17, 2010

Bridges across East Gippsland would be eligible for repair or rebuilding through a $600 million Bridges Renewal Program if the Coalition wins the Federal election, expected to be held later this year.

The program would see the upgrade of thousands of ageing and decaying bridges across Australia over a four-year period.

The Nationals Member for Gippsland Darren Chester has welcomed the announcement made in Canberra today by the Leader of The Nationals Warren Truss.

Speaking at the National General Assembly of Local Government, Mr Truss said the Coalition was committed to providing $300 million over four years to the program, with the expectation that State Governments would match the funding on a dollar-for-dollar basis.

Mr Chester said the Bridges Renewal Program would build on the good work of a previous policy initiative driven by The Nationals, the successful Roads to Recovery Program.

Mr Chester said the new Cunninghame Arm bridge in Lakes Entrance was an example of how funding under the Bridges Renewal Program could assist Local and State Governments in repairing or rebuilding local bridges.

The Cunninghame Arm bridge was a jointly funded project between the Australian Government ($1.2 million) from the Roads to Recovery Program, Regional Development Victoria ($1 million) and East Gippsland Shire ($1 million).

“East Gippsland Shire is typical of many rural municipalities. It has an ageing bridge infrastructure network and limited funds to replace or upgrade facilities,” Mr Chester said.

“As traffic volumes throughout the region increase as a result of a growing population, increased tourism activity and industry development, the strain on our local road and bridge network will rise.

“It’s important that funding is allocated to maintain these networks which provide links between the communities of East Gippsland for local residents, visitors and freight operators.

“With 230 bridges in East Gippsland Shire alone, the cost to maintain our local bridges is enormous. Under this program, local councils would be able to apply for funding and my office will be working hard to make sure we receive a fair share of any allocation.”

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