Operators of a Marulan district quarry have argued their haul route should not have 'onerous' upgrade requirements placed on it as part of an expansion plan.
Gunlake Quarry community and stakeholder engagement officer Geoff Kettle says the haul routes are among the "safest and best funded" in the council area.
The former Goulburn Mulwaree mayor addressed councillors at their recent meeting about a staff recommendation to undertake more improvements on the quarry's primary and secondary haul routes from its Brayton Road operation, 5km north of Marulan.
Gunlake is applying to the NSW Land and Environment Court for an average 440 daily truck movements, including return trips, and a maximum 590 each day on its primary transport route. This takes in Brayton and Ambrose Roads and links up with the Hume Highway to travel north.
Mr Kettle says it's an increase of about 35 trucks a day.
The company also wants to remove the annual tonnage limit and have product restricted by approved truck movements instead.
In tandem with the court bid, Gunlake is applying to the state government for an average 690 trucks daily, including return, and a maximum 750 each day on the primary transport route. It's seen as a more permanent solution.
The operation produces up to two million tonnes of aggregates annually for construction, concrete and asphalt.
But the community has raised concerns about the number of truck movements and road safety over the years. The latest bid is no exception, with some residents again calling for Gunlake to use rail instead.
A planner's report to the recent council meeting accepted the company's argument that this was not economically viable but called on the company to better explain to people why road was preferred.
It also suggested a raft of haul route improvements to handle the proposed 20 per cent increase in truck numbers. They form part of a submission to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment.
They included a widened centre line on more sections of the primary route, thereby providing greater separation between trucks and cars. Planning director Scott Martin said the wider centre line had been well received by the community and the council was now highlighting it as a preferred method in talks with prospective quarry operators.
But some areas of Gunlake's main haul route retained standard centre line markings, including around culverts and drains and the climb towards Ambrose and Red Hills Road intersection.
Planners also wanted a climbing lane on this stretch, echoing community requests.
"This has been driven by periodic instances during foggy winter mornings when loaded trucks have missed gears on the climb, causing them to stall (and) leaving them to reverse against the flow of traffic in order to find a flat surface to recommence the climb," the report stated.
The council also wanted an analysis of the haul route undertaken to demonstrate a 20-year pavement life and a permanent speed reduction to 80km/h.
Mr Kettle said the company completely agreed with the speed reduction and had been working with the council, state and federal representatives and the community to achieve this.
"We're at a standstill because the Roads and Maritime Service (RMS) doesn't believe it should be," he told councillors.
"There is a precedent (for other quarry haul routes) in the council area on Jerrara Road and Marulan South Road."
But he questioned the need for other requested road improvements such as the extended centre line and climbing lane.
"It's fair to say...we don't really understand why you want them," Mr Kettle said.
He argued that while the council wanted a 20-year pavement life, its own development control plan only required 10 years.
The haul route was designed by David McTiernan, the national leader for road safety with the Australian Road Research Board (ARRB). Mr McTiernan also helped design the Bruce and Newell Highways.
He also addressed the meeting, saying the haul route design was based on a risk management approach and not only met but exceeded Austroad guidelines in some sections. Mr McTiernan said even with the proposed truck increase, the road would still be operating at one-third capacity. He also pointed out that the wider centre line was a Gunlake initiative.
Mr Kettle also disputed that trucks had missed gears on the hill and reversed and told The Post that Gunlake paid about $690,000 annually in section 94 fees which was "more than enough" to maintain the road for the quarry's life.
Deputy Mayor Peter Walker successfully argued that the company shouldn't be asked to do more than already agreed and which had been discussed "openly with the council and community".
"Let that run its life and then if there's anything else that comes up, we can readdress that," he said.
Cr Walker agreed that only the 10-year pavement life should apply.
Rather than calling for the suggested upgrades, councillors unanimously agreed to endorse the Gunlake extension project, acknowledge the company's efforts to address community concerns and to lobby RMS for a speed reduction to 80km/h along the haul route.
After the meeting, Mr Kettle said Gunlake was pleased with the outcome.
"We believe, as does the ARRB, that the road needs no further work because it was built far over and above what the Land and Environment Court ruling wanted in 2017," he said.
The state planning department will have the final say on road conditions. The application's public submission period ended on February 5.
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