One of the Illawarra’s standout tourist attractions, the Sea Cliff Bridge, is proving to be as notorious as the road it is now replacing, with rock falls and landslides threatening to damage the newly created passageway.

Anger was sparked in 2003 when Lawrence Hargrave Drive, the connecting road between Coalcliff and Clifton, was indefinitely closed due to mass erosion that caused part of the road to tear away from the cliff ledge.

In association with engineering companies and experts, the RTA devised the creation of Sea Cliff Bridge, which would reduce the risk to users of the road.

“Without the bridge, the northern suburbs would struggle to survive the way they do”, says Sydney traveller and frequent Wollongong tourist, Pete Walsh, “compared to the old road, this bridge is far less hazardous”.

Sea Cliff Bridge has seemed to suffer the same hardships as Lawrence Hargrave Drive, as this weekend it was closed for a short period of time due to the recent heavy rain. Heathcote MP, Lee Evans told the Illawarra Mercury that it was a “disappointing outcome” for a bridge built only recently.

Sea Cliff Bridge was opened December 2005 and has a design life of 100 years; the bridge cost $49 million to build.

Some locals believe budget cuts and money saving tactics are the reason the bridge is still in danger.

“Building the bridge further away from the escarpment would ensure that the same problems that were happening before, wouldn’t happen again”, says structural engineer, Andrew Byron. “Although it would have cost almost double the amount, it would most certainly have been worth it.”

Looking to the future of the Sea Cliff Bridge, there are numerous ways in which sustaining the bridge is possible.

Chris Ferguson, Associate Professor in Geology at the University of Wollongong believes that some things would be more beneficial than others. “A sea wall is a short term solution, as the same processes (that affects the road) would affect it too”, he says. “Building the bridge away from the cliff face would be more beneficial.”

With the bridge still being seen as safe and sustainable, “tourists are still being drawn to the area and the beautiful scenes”, says Pete Walsh, “and no amount of rock could stop me from visiting”.

Words: Brad Bulger
Video: Tanya Dendrinos
Photos: Hayley Corkin

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