Adelaide’s hallowed heritage: Sir William Goodman Bridge

The century-old Sir William Goodman Bridge is an iconic heritage structure in South Australia. It is also thought to be the first reinforced concrete bridge built in the Adelaide metropolitan area.Sir John Monash is a prolific figure in Australia’s wartime history. He was a military leader during World War One who eventually commanded the Australian Corps on the Western Front.

After the war, he helped found the Rotary Club of Melbourne – the first in Australia – and became one of the principal organisers of the annual observance of ANZAC Day.

His list of achievements is endless and, fittingly, the likes of Monash University, the Monash Freeway and the City of Monash were named in his honour.

History buffs will know he was also a civil engineer who helped introduce reinforced concrete to the country’s engineering practices by way of some iconic projects, including Adelaide’s Sir William Goodman Bridge.

The need for the bridge was identified in the early 1900s, when the existing Adelaide metropolitan horse tram network was being updated and electrified.

The Metropolitan Tramway Trust (MTT) was formed in 1906 to undertake this task, which also required the extension of the tramway system to provide services to the wider city suburbs.

In order for services to reach the north-west of the city, trams needed to cross the River Torrens.

The MTT civil engineer suggested a single arch bridge with a span of 100 feet for the new structure. However Sir John, as part of the South Australian Reinforced Concrete Company, argued for the T-girder alternative, citing economical and efficiency benefits.

Sir John was ultimately able to convince the MTT to go with his T-girder design. The bridge took about three months to build and was completed in December 1908. The single tram track was laid in February 1909 and the first trial run with an electric car was held on 9 March 1910.

Dubbed the Holland Street Bridge, and also known as the Thebarton-Hindmarsh Tramway Bridge, the structure is thought to be the first reinforced concrete bridge built in the Adelaide metropolitan area and the second oldest such bridge in South Australia.

It is only one of two reinforced concrete bridges designed by Sir John in South Australia and still standing. The other is a railway bridge over the Hindmarsh River.

Over the years the bridge ceased to be used for tramcars and become a crossing for regular vehicles. By 1990 it was closed to road traffic and used as a pedestrian and cyclist thoroughfare due to corrosion damage over several decades of use.

In 2010, an audit of the bridge by its then joint owners, the City of Charles Sturt and the City of West Torrens, identified corrosion and cracking, so the bridge had to be closed.

Several years of consultancy and negotiations to determine the best way to provide pedestrian and cycling access across the river followed. The City of Charles Sturt (by 2013 the sole owner of the bridge) made the decision to restore the bridge rather than building a new one.

As it was entered into State Heritage Register on 20 November 1986, the bridge now cannot be demolished.

J Woodside Consulting was the project manager on the bridge restoration, with LN Engineering working as the structural engineer and National Precast Member SA Precast supplying the precast elements for the build.

The restoration project commenced in early 2014 and involved the replacement of all damaged concrete with additional steel and carbon fibre reinforcement, as well as other new works such as new handrails and scour control under the bridge.

Construction was completed in September 2014 and the bridge was reopened and renamed the Sir William Goodman Bridge.

The bridge received an Engineering Heritage Marker in 2014 and the project to restore it received the Ian MacDonald award for Best in Urban Category in South Australia from the Australian Civic Trust. It was also shortlisted for an international heritage award by the United Kingdom Institution of Structural Engineers.

The awards are testament to Sir John’s original design and innovation, as well as the extensive work involved in its restoration.

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