As a child I was fascinated by the spread of freeways in my city and state. It was many years later that that I discovered they only solved problems for a short time. In Melbourne at the moment it appears every road is being worked on. By the time they all finish they’ll have to get going again. Until I was 11, there was a wonderful windy and relatively unpolluted creek that flowed near my house. We spent so much time down there. We called it the jungle. It was full of box thorn and thistles but it was all we knew. One day I spoke to a man ramming little wooden pegs in the ground. I asked what he was doing to which he replied ‘very soon there will be a big freeway coming through here’. I was amazed. That was end of the jungle.
About the same time, businesses in Melbourne’s western suburbs, the industrial, ugly side of town, were lobbying for a river crossing near the mouth of the Yarra River. Both sides were seen as an ugly wasteland; perfect for a big bridge. Work for the West Gate Bridge commenced in 1968. This only occurred after a series of dodgy money gatherings and bad tendering, as was found in hindsight. Well into construction, late in 1970, a section of the box girder bridge and a box pylon, collapsed killing 35 construction workers and injuring 18.
Of course there was an inquiry and their findings can be perused. Construction eventually resumed. The photograph below was taken by me in 1976
The bridge was completed in 1978. Tolls were introduced, but later scrapped because it could be avoided. It now carries 200000 vehicles per day and a 2nd lower Yarra crossing is close to commencing.
Some say this bridge competes somehow with the Sydney Harbour Bridge. No way; It’s a big ugly bridge that runs through a fairly ugly part of Melbourne. It has 10 car lanes, but no train. I drive over it about 20 times a year. I’ve walked over it too, to raise funds.
Like all bridges, the Westgate has attracted a lot of suiciders. They did not do anything about this until an imbecile threw his 4 year daughter to her death to get back his wife, in 2009, in front of her brother. This story makes me so emotional. That poor little girl and the poor brother, and mother. I can’t write about it. They installed a fence.
Back in 1962, when I was 4, another smaller bridge in the centre of Melbourne cracked due to dodgy engineering. I was a big fan of Zig and Zag, clowns on the telly. They thought they had cracked the bridge when they accidentally dropped a coconut on it. They were gonna get into big trouble. I believed this of course.