It won’t be open for summer, but Wollongong City Council’s multimillion-dollar upgrade of the historic Blue Mile Tramway is quickly taking shape.
On Friday, the 76th of 140 precast concrete panels – which form the new seawall – was craned into position.
It’s a process that can take up to two hours per panel, given each weigh between 7.5 and 10 tonnes, and Friday’s installation marked a significant milestone.
Five months into the project, and with more than half the concrete panels now in place, work on the widened footpath between Belmore Basin and North Wollongong beach is expected to begin within eight weeks.
Builders are working from north to south to complete the 500-metre-long project.
Senior project manager Justin Kennedy said the biggest challenge to date had been posed by the “tide, sea and swell conditions”.
It’s all about planning and logistics, and trying to guess what the weather’s going to do next.Senior project manager Justin Kennedy
“Obviously we’re right on the ocean itself, so we have to minimise environmental harm,” Mr Kennedy said.
“We have to not have any erosion or any material enter the waterway itself.
“As we install each panel it has to be done within the appropriate tide and also the timing of the day itself, so it’s all about planning and logistics, and trying to guess what the weather’s going to do next.”
The $10 million project is jointly funded by the federal government, through its National Stronger Regions Fund, and the council.
“This is the very sort of project that not only generates employment but it also generates activities,” Senator Concetta Fierravanti-Wells said during Friday’s site visit.
“Once this project is over it will not only be an absolutely wonderful addition to this area, but I think it will very much stimulate a lot more activities down here.”
The Tramway project began on March 6, with the closure of the shared path between Belmore Basin and the cutting at North beach. Work is expected to take about another year to complete.
Asked if the summer closure of the thoroughfare would affect tourism, Destination Wollongong’s Tania Brown said it was “short-term pain for long-term gain”.
“You don’t get iconic infrastructure without a bit of disruption, but I think everyone will welcome it when it’s finally open,” Ms Brown said.