In April 2020, during the course of routine structural assessments undertaken yearly on bridge assets throughout the Lithgow LGA, it was identified that the bridge immediately north-east of the Hartley Vale village required urgent works.
To facilitate the necessary abutment reconstruction, the bridge was immediately closed to traffic and a temporary bridge and approaches were installed to cater to through traffic.
"This temporary diversion remained in place for nearly 10 months," Council's Director of Infrastructure Services, Jonathon Edgecombe said.
"Council undertakes yearly inspections of its bridge assets, carefully assessing their structural integrity and prioritising any required improvements or renewals.
"With public safety being Council's utmost priority, once we became aware of the problem the bridge was immediately closed, a temporary bridge was installed within a week and design work commenced on an upgraded structure."
Since last April, Lithgow City Council has worked with the Hartley Vale community, specialist heritage consultants, bridge construction experts and relevant state authorities to protect the heritage value of the bridge while also updating it to modern standards.
"Our city is characterised by both the beauty of its natural environment and its contrasting industrial and community infrastructure assets of years gone by," Lithgow City Council's Mayor, Councillor Ray Thompson said.
"The Hartley Vale bridge is one of those unique assets, built by convicts in the 19th century, and forming one of the significant lines of road coming down into the valley known as the Old Bells Line of Road.
"This bridge and its connecting roads were essential in opening up western NSW."
The works completed saw the original sandstone abutments removed, a new concrete and steel bridge constructed, and the original sandstone abutments replaced to maintain the heritage value of the original structure.
Timber logs and handrails have also been installed to disguise the modern structure and retain the impression of a historic, nation-building asset.
"I am very proud of what Council was able to achieve over the course of this project," Mayor Thompson said.
"Our culture and historic assets are very important and must be protected.
"In its current state, this bridge will continue serving our community for the foreseeable future while also standing as a reminder of the importance of our past."