Spanning the Yarra River, just north of its mouth into Port Phillip, the West Gate Bridge links the inner city and Melbourne's western suburbs with the industrial suburbs in the west and with the city of Geelong which is 80kms to the south-west. With its height above the water at 58m, the main river span is 336 m, and the total length of the bridge is 2,582.6 metres.
The Collapse of the Bridge
Two years into its construction on 15 October 1970, just before 12 noon the bridge collapsed, killing 35 construction workers. Many of those who perished were on their lunch break 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 metres away. Homes were spattered with flying mud. The roar of the impact, the explosion, and the fire that followed, could be clearly heard over 20 km away.
In 1972 construction resumed and the bridge was completed in 1978. After 10 years of construction, the bridge, a part of the larger West Gate Freeway, cost $202 million. The bridge opened to the public on 16 November 1978 and it was tolled until 15 November 1985. When it first opened, everybody went across it at least once just to see what it was like and to say they'd been.
Today's quote: “Let every man praise the bridge that carries him over” ~ English proverb.