Bridges of the Yarra 1. WEST GATE BRIDGE For decades, bridging the Lower Yarra was a dream of Melbourne’s planners, and in the late 1960’s work finally began on a bridge which would link the two banks, and render redundant the old Williamstown ferry which had run since 1931 . It needed to be a high bridge, fifty-four metres above the river, to permit the passage beneath it of the many ships that had to enter and leave Melbourne’s dockland berths up-river of it, and first estimates put its cost at $24 million. The two ends were finally linked on 31 st May 1978, ten years and fifty-three days after work had begun in 1968, and it was opened to traffic on 15th November 1978 by the Premier, the Hon. R. J. Hamer. During construction a span collapsed, on 15th October 1970, killing thirty-five workers in the nation’s worst-ever bridge disaster. The bridge was subsequently re-designed, and new contractors took on the job of finishing it (chiefly John Holland & Co. Pty. Ltd. in conjunction with Dorman Long). One of the longest cable-stayed box-girder bridges in the world, its overall length is 2582 metres (its centre span is 336 metres) and it has eight lanes carrying road traffic only (plus two breakdown lanes). It is crossed by some 22,000 vehicles daily, which is about half what had been predicted before its completion. It became a $200 million bridge. It is planned that its $145 million construction costs, plus $50 million interest paid on loans and $4 million annual upkeep costs, will be gradually paid off over 40 years by the collection of tolls (initially 60 cents for cars and up to $2 for trucks). 3. SPENCER STREET BRIDGE Linking South Melbourne with Melbourne, and Clarendon Street with Spencer Street, this bridge was for many years the furthest downstream of the bridges of the Yarra, but 1978 saw the West Gate Bridge and Johnson Street Bridge remove that distinction. It carries trams, road and foot traffic. A bridge in this position had been talked of for generations, and was finally built, by the Railway Construction Board, in 1930. It cost £160,000 and its three steel spans with central cantilevers cross the river close to where John Batman’s house once stood. During the Queen’s visit to Melbourne in the Royal Yacht BRITANNIA in the late 1960’s, this bridge made the headlines when the Royal Barge, having safely delivered Her Majesty upstream at Henley Landing, stuck fast under it on its return journey (someone having failed to realise that disembarking the Royal entourage would raise the barge’s freeboard considerably!). 2. JOHNSON STREET BRIDGE The newest of the many low- level bridges crossing the lower Yarra, the Johnson Street Bridge in Port Melbourne, by its construction by the C.R.B. In 1977-78, cut off several of the upstream berths of the North and South Wharves, and isolated in the old Duke and Orr’s Dry Dock the museum ship POLLY WOODSIDE. She is seen, in the painting, berthed at South Wharf before she entered the dock with, beyond the bridge, the floating dock A. J. Wagglen which replaced Duke and Orr’s Dry Dock. TOWNSVILLE TRADER is in the floating dock. The bridge cost $31 million, was opened in August 1978, and links the F9 Freeway with Footscray Road. It has four lanes in each direction and is used by 30,000 vehicles daily, having attracted much of the traffic which it had been expected would use the West Gate Bridge. 4. KINGS BRIDGE The third longest bridge in Victoria, this bridge was built by Utah Australia and was opened by the Premier, Mr Bolte, on 12th April 1961. It suffered a fracture soon afterwards, and was out of action for repairs for many months. It carries vehicular traffic only, with three lanes in each of four separate bridge sections, the two central roadways continuing into South Melbourne as an elevated over- pass 697 metres long. There are also four-metre footways on the outsides of the outer, river-crossing sections.