Bridging Routh Creek's gap in just nine days

Twisted guard rail. Exposed guard rail posts. The yawning gap in a bridge. The road surface wedged in the rubble below.

They are graphic illustrations of nature’s fury, the damage that can result when a usually tame watercourse becomes a raging torrent, fuelled by record rainfall.

That scenario became reality in January 2024 when Routh Creek Bridge near Georgetown was sliced in two as the creek, swollen by weeks of torrential monsoonal rain, took its toll on the bridge.

Already saturated from record rainfall associated with Tropical Cyclone Jasper, subsequent severe weather in January 2024 dumped a further 252 millimetres of rain at nearby Georgetown Airport, turning Routh Creek into a destructive force.

On 20 January 2024 the eastern abutment of Routh Creek Bridge sustained significant damage as part of the roadway was swallowed by the floodwater, cutting the Gulf Development Road from Georgetown to Mount Surprise.

The Gulf Developmental Road is a major Far North Queensland link from the south-west of Cairns to south of Normanton near the Gulf of Carpentaria.

With the bridge closed and no viable alternative route available, motorists would have been forced to drive an additional 2,000 kilometres.

Queensland’s Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) prioritised repairing the bridge, essential to getting vital supplies into local communities.

TMR crews were rapidly dispatched to the site to undertake damage assessments.

Identified works included removing the damaged embankment, constructing a new rock foundation, and restoring the bridge pavement over the eastern abutment.

TMR crews commenced emergency works on 23 January 2024 with assistance from Etheridge Shire Council crews, who removed damaged guardrail and prepared the bridge for repair.

Critical earthwork repairs were completed in just nine days, allowing Routh Creek Bridge to reopen 29 January 2024, with further sealing works completed two days later.

The bridge is open to all general mass limits vehicles under single lane and speed restrictions while TMR plans further restoration of the structure.

The recovery works are jointly funded by the Australian and Queensland Governments through the Disaster Recovery Funding Arrangements (DRFA).