Brisbane’s bold bridge

Brisbane’s iconic Story Bridge is three-quarters of a century old and its legacy as Australia’s longest cantilever bridge lives on.By the 1920s, Brisbane was booming.

Queensland’s capital was expanding and the Greater Brisbane Council at the time identified need for more structures to connect the growing city.

The Victoria Bridge, the only inner-city crossing at the time, was not able to meet increasing demand, and the Brisbane River Bridge (as it was dubbed at the time) was proposed to connect Kangaroo Point, Fortitude Valley and the Brisbane CBD.

The gears were in motion, but it wasn’t until the 1930s that a new structure connecting central Brisbane began to come to fruition.

The tender to construct the bridge was released to market in 1934 and Evans Deakin-Hornibrook Constructions was awarded the contract to construct the six-lane bridge soon after.

Once complete, the final structure would be a 1072-metre-long and 72-metre-high steel cantilever bridge – the longest cantilever bridge in Australia.

Queensland Premier Forgan Smith turned the first sod on the bold project at Kangaroo Point on 24 May, 1935.

Construction began that same month under the guidance of Consulting Engineer John Bradfield, who famously held the title of Chief Engineer for the construction of Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The project included some unique challenges from the outset.

The southern foundations of the bridge had to be constructed 40 metres below ground level. The project team used a pneumatic caisson technique so the workers could undertake this vital stage of the project.

Because of the extreme air pressure in the environment, workers had to undergo a lengthy decompression period after the end of each shift to avoid the bends.

Steel components for the bridge were fabricated in a purpose-built factory at Rocklea and more than 400 locals were employed on the bridge’s construction, which spanned five years.

In 1937 and in the middle of construction, the bridge was renamed after public servant John Douglas Story.

Construction crews worked simultaneously from both ends of the bridge, finally meeting in the middle in October 1939 when the two sections were joined.

The reinforced concrete roadway slabs were laid in January 1940, and by June of that year the Story Bridge was complete.

From 1952 to 1969 electric trolley-buses were used across the bridge.

Today, it is still a structure of immense importance for the state capital.

The legacy of the Story Bridge has continued for the past three-quarters of a century. The iconic structure was listed on the Queensland Heritage Register in 1992 and 2015 marked its 75th anniversary.

The bridge is not only a memorable and recognisable structure by its status as Australia’s longest cantilever bridge, but it is now a quintessential icon of modern-day Brisbane.

Photo credit: © Martin Valigursky / Shutterstock.com

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