West Gate Bridge

West Gate Bridge

bridge_name=West Gate Bridge

caption=View of the bridge with a River Cruise Boat passing under
carries=8 lanes (4 inbound, 4 outbound)
crosses=Yarra River
locale=Melbourne, Australia
design=Cable-stayed box girder
mainspan=336 metres (1,102 ft)
length=2,582.6 metres (8,473.1 ft)
width=Maximum of 37.3 metres (122.4 ft)
below=58 metres (190.3 ft)
traffic= 165,000 [ [http://www.doi.vic.gov.au/DOI/DOIElect.nsf/alldocs/3F156A14531652F4CA25741E001D6B62/$FILE/Investing_in_Transport-Overview-Part1.pdf Investing in Transport Overview - Part 1] Department of Infrastructure. Page 12. Retrieved on April 3 2008.]
open=15 November 1978
coordinates = coord|37.829708|S|144.898412|E|display=inline,title|region:AU_type:landmark
map_cue= Connects the Melbourne CBD with south-western suburbs and Geelong


The West Gate Bridge is a large cable-stayed box girder bridge in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It spans the Yarra River, just north of its mouth into Port Phillip, and is a vital link between the inner city and Melbourne's western suburbs with the industrial suburbs in the west and with the city of Geelong, 80 kilometres (50 mi) to the south-west.

The main river span is 336 metres (1,102 ft) in length, and the height above the water is 58 metres. The total length of the bridge is 2,582.6 metres (8,473.1 ft). It is the third longest in Australia behind the Houghton Highway and the Hornibrook Bridge, and is twice as long as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The bridge passes over Westgate Park, a large environmental and recreational reserve created during the bridge's construction.


Motor vehicles

Unlike the Bolte Bridge much closer to the city centre, a part of the CityLink freeway system, the Westgate Bridge is no longer tolled.It carries four lanes of motor vehicle traffic in each direction.

Cycling and the Westgate

Cyclists are prohibited from using the bridge except for special bicycle events, notably the "MS Summer cycle" which is a fundraising event for multiple sclerosis and the "Around the bay in a day" Bicycle Victoria event that raises money for the Smith family. The [http://www.westgatepunt.com Westgate Punt] is a ferry that runs directly below the bridge taking cyclists and pedestrians across the Yarra between a jetty at Fisherman's Bend near Westgate Park - Bayside Trail and a jetty adjacent to Scienceworks Museum - Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail. Operating only on weekends and public holidays, 10:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. on demand. Ticket prices are $3 one way and children under 10 are free (bicycles no charge).



Two years into construction of the bridge, tragedy struck at 11.50 am on 15 October 1970, the 112 metre (367.5 ft) span between piers 10 and 11 collapsed and fell 50 metres (164 ft) to the ground and water below. Thirty-five construction workers were killed. Of those who perished many were located beneath the structure in workers' huts which were crushed by the falling span. Others were working on and inside the girder when it fell. The whole 2,000-tonne mass plummeted into the Yarra River mud with an explosion of gas, dust and mangled metal that shook buildings hundreds of yards away. Homes were spattered with flying mud. The roar of the impact, the explosion, and the fire that followed, could be heard some distance away. A [http://www.westgatebridge.org West Gate Bridge Memorial] to workers who lost their lives is located near the bridge. On the following morning, October 16, Sir Henry Bolte (Premier of Victoria) announced that a Royal Commission would be set up immediately to look into the cause of the disaster. The Prime Minister, Mr. John Gorton, said: "I am sure the whole of Australia is shocked and saddened by the serious accident at West Gate Bridge . Please extend my deepest sympathy to all those families to whom this tragic event has brought such grief." ['West Gate', Bill Hitchings, 1979, Outback Press]


A Royal Commission into the collapse was established, and concluded on 14 July 1971. It attributed the failure of the bridge to two causes; the structural design by designers Freeman Fox & Partners and an unusual method of erection by World Services and Construction, the original contractors of the project.

On the day of the collapse there was a difference in camber of 11.4 centimetres (4.5 in) between two half girders at the west end of the span which needed to be joined. It was proposed that the higher one be weighted down with 10 concrete blocks, each 8 tonnes (11 t), which were located on site. The weight of these blocks caused the span to buckle, which was a sign of structural failure. The longitudinal joining of the half girders was partially complete when orders came through to remove the buckle. As the bolts were removed the bridge snapped back and the span collapsed.

Six twisted fragments of the collapsed bridge can be found adorning the gardens in the engineering faculty of Monash University, Clayton campus. It is said by students that they are there to remind engineers of what happens when they get it wrong. Monash University acquired these pieces when it was asked to participate in the investigation into the collapse.


Completed in 1978 after 10 years of construction, the bridge, a part of the larger West Gate Freeway, cost $202 million. The bridge was originally tolled until 1985, due to drivers using other routes to avoid the toll. [cite web
title=The Melbourne City Link Project
author=M. G. Lay and K. F. Daley
work=Transport Policy
date=Volume 9, Issue 3, July 2002

In 2006 the State Government spent $1.3 million on erecting railway style boom barriers at each entrance to the bridge to block traffic in the event of a terrorist attack. [cite web
title=West Gate boom gates to fight terror
work=Herald Sun
author=Tanya Giles
date=January 18, 200
] In March 2007 the State Government announced that two flagpoles would be erected atop the main bridge pylons, to fly the Australian and Victorian flags, each being 10 metres by 5 metres in size and 135m above sea level. [cite web
work=Media Release: OFFICE OF THE PREMIER
date=March 13, 2007
] Costing $350,000 to install and $15,000 a year to maintain, [cite web
title=Pride in the flags to cost $350,000
work=The Age
date=September 17, 2008
] the flags were unfurled on September 24, 2008. [cite web
title=West Gate Bridge shows flag colours
work=Herald Sun
author=Ashley Gardiner
date=September 25, 2008


Strong growth in suburbs along the route, and increased freight through the Port of Melbourne, means that the corridor is experiencing traffic congestion during peak periods, is vulnerable to short term interruptions and is rapidly approaching capacity.

Proposals to abate congestion by allowing more traffic have included bridge widening, a tunnel underneath the river, or adding a second deck to the bridge. Many such plans have come under fire from community groups such as the Public Transport Users Association and Environment Victoria advocating investment in alternative forms of transport.

The bridge was strengthened with carbon fibre reinforced polymers (CFRP) in 2002. [ [http://search.informit.com.au/documentSummary;dn=461948030646460;res=IELENG Australian Journal of Civil Engineering, Strengthening of the West Gate Bridge with Carbon Fibre Composites - a Proof Engineer's Perspective] ]

On 17 May 2006, the State Government announced plans to change traffic flow in peak periods on the West Gate Bridge and approaches to it, providing five traffic lanes in the peak direction, instead of four. This will be done using overhead signals and barriers. The state government has allocated funds to this project in its 2006–2007 state budget.

On 5 August 2007 it was reported that the Victorian Government was planning a $240 million project to identify and eliminate structural weaknesses in the bridge, with specific concerns including crash barriers, cracking, corrosion and potential buckling. News of the work was prompted by the collapse of the I-35W Mississippi River bridge in Minneapolis, Minnesota, United States. Experts were reported as saying the West Gate was initially designed to carry loads of 25 tonnes but now carried B-double trucks weighing up to 68 tonnes [ [http://www.theage.com.au/news/national/west-gate-to-get-240m-facelift/2007/08/04/1185648212911.html "$240m West Gate facelift to bridge safety fears", The Age, August 5, 2007] .] .

It was also built to carry 40,000 vehicles a day, but volumes are now more than four and a half times the original amount, approximately 180,000 vehicles on an average day.Fact|date=October 2008

The State Government is also assessing options for the development of another east-west link. Sir Rod Eddington, former CEO of British Airways and Chairman of the Victorian Major Events Company, will head the assessment of the future East-West connections and recommend the best way forward for public transport, road and freight travel for the entire Monash-West Gate corridor.

An unconfirmed 6 February 2006 report suggested that the State Government was considering plans to build a companion tunnel to the West Gate Bridge, the Westgate Tunnel under the Yarra River, to carry both traffic and a freight rail line. This would be similar to the Sydney Harbour Bridge and Tunnel arrangement (although the latter does not provide a rail route).


Police data show up to one suicide happens every three weeks at the West Gate Bridge. [ [http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,23860759-2862,00.html Anti-suicide barrier urged for West Gate Bridge | Herald Sun ] ] In 2008, the bodies of a mother in her late 20s and her 18-month-old baby were found on the river bank below the West Gate Bridge, prompting calls to erect a suicide barrier. [ [http://www.news.com.au/story/0,23599,23813286-421,00.html Mum and baby dead in 'gut-wrenching' tragedy | NEWS.com.au ] ]

Those who argue for a suicide barrier claim that most of those who jump from the West Gate Bridge do so through impulse and that police officers who try to save those who try to jump are putting their own lives in danger. There are multiple incidents of police officers dangling off the side of the bridge while holding onto would-be jumpers. [ [http://www.news.com.au/heraldsun/story/0,21985,20725602-2862,00.html Police risk lives on death bridge | Herald Sun ] ]

A 2000 Royal Melbourne Hospital study on people who jumped from the bridge found at least 62 cases between 1991 and 1998. Seven people survived the 58-metre fall. Seventy-four per cent of those who jumped from the bridge were male, with an average age of 33. More than 70 per cent were suffering from mental illness. [ [http://www.starnewsgroup.com.au/story/59793 Star News Group - Fence on bridge - By Karen Poh ] ]

Of those who jump off the West Gate Bridge, 31 per cent fell on land. Some of those who land in water drowned afterwards. [ [http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10738475 Jumping from the Westgate Bridge, Melbourne. [Med J Aust. 2000 - PubMed Result ] ]

ee also

* List of disasters in Australia by death toll
* List of bridge disasters
* West Gate Freeway
* Erskine Bridge
* Tasman Bridge
* Suicide bridge


External links

* [http://www.westgatebridge.org/ West Gate Bridge Memorial]
* [http://www.prov.vic.gov.au/exhibs/westgate/welcome.htm Public Record Office of Victoria's special site on the Westgate Bridge collapse]
* [http://www.workcover.vic.gov.au/vwa/home.nsf/pages/construction_safety Worksafe Victoria]
* [http://www.vicroads.vic.gov.au/vrne/vrninte.nsf/alldocs/00610095A45D8AE2CA256D560008060A VicRoads: West Gate Bridge and Freeway]
* [http://www.bv.com.au/bikes-and-riding/11690/ Westgate Cycling Punt]

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