A Crucial Step Takes Place for a Major Transportation Project in Australia

March 16, 1957

In the state of Western Australia (WA), plans for a major transportation project in the city of Perth moved further towards full-fledged reality. John Digby Leach, who served as WA’s commissioner of main roads from 1953 to 1966, became the catalyst for this milestone when he signed a contract for building a highway bridge across a section of the Swan River in Perth. This section, which is located between Point Lewis and Mill Point, has long been known as the Narrows.

Construction on the bridge formally began less than three months after Leach signed the contract for that project. The building of the bridge was a joint effort of the Danish construction company Christiani & Nielsen and the WA-based engineering firm J.O. Clough & Son (now called the Clough Group). The above photo taken in 1957 shows the bridge very much under construction.

This bridge was completed in 1959. It was officially opened by Sir Charles Gairdner, governor of WA, on November 13 of that year. Gairdner’s duties for the occasion included unveiling a commemorative plaque on the new bridge. The other public officials involved in that part of the ceremony were David Brand, premier of WA; Leach; and Gerald Wild, WA’s minister for works. In another one of his roles for that day’s festivities, Gairdner became the first person to drive across the bridge. At the time of its opening, this structure held the record as the largest precast, prestressed concrete bridge in the world.

About four decades later, construction began on a second bridge at that location to help accommodate the ever-growing amount of traffic in the area. This new bridge was opened on February 26, 2001. It was formally dedicated three months later by Alannah McTiernan, WA’s minster for planning and infrastructure.

Later that decade, a third crossing was built between both highway bridges at that section of the Swan River. This newest structure is a bridge designed to carry the Mandurah railway line, a hybrid suburban rail/rapid transit service that is part of the Transperth Trains system in WA. This line’s inaugural run across the new rail bridge occurred on December 23, 2007. Approximately 1,500 passengers were on board the first train that day.

The first of these bridges was entered on WA’s heritage register in 1999. That same year, it was also named a national engineering landmark by the Institution of Engineers, Australia. All three of the crossings in that area of WA’s capital city are now collectively called the Narrows Bridge.

Photo Credit: Moondyne (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0 Unported license at Creative Commons — Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported — CC BY-SA 3.0)

For more information on the Narrows Bridge, please check out Narrows Bridge (Perth) – Wikipedia

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