Auckland Harbour Bridge

Year:1959

Duration:4 years

Cost:£7.5m (£160m today)

Country: Auckland, New Zealand

What did this project achieve?

Build one of the longest road bridges in the North Island of New Zealand

Auckland Harbour bridge is an 8 lane motorway bridge over Waitematā Harbour in Auckland, New Zealand. It joins St Mary's Bay on the Auckland city side with Northcote on the North Shore side.

Opened in 1959, it's 1,020m long with a main span of 243.8m. It's the longest road bridge in the North Island and the second longest in New Zealand.

Cost cutting measures meant the road bridge was built with only 4 road lanes – fewer than originally recommended by planners - and no cycle lane or walkway for pedestrians.

By 1965 about 10m vehicles were using the bridge every year – 3 times what had been expected. The increased traffic was largely due to the expansion of the suburbs on the North Shore.

City authorities widened the bridge in 1969 by adding 'clip-on' box girder extensions. These doubled the original 4 lanes to 8 lanes. The additions cost far more than if they'd been planned as part of the original structure.

A 'Sky Path' for pedestrians and cyclists got planning permission from local authorities in 2016 (but has yet to be built).

The bridge was recognised by the Institution of Professional Engineers New Zealand (now known as Engineering New Zealand) as part of the country's 150th anniversary celebrations.

Difference the project has made

The bridge has shortened journey times considerably. Before the bridge was built, the quickest way from Auckland to the North Shore was by ferry. By road the shortest route was via the Northwestern motorway – about 50km.

Since the bridge was built the North Shore has grown from a mostly rural area with a population of around 50,000 into a busy suburb.

The bridge is credited with opening the area for expansion and helping grow the local economy.

How the work was done

The bridge is 1,020m long and has 7 spans. Each span is identified by a letter - from A at the north end to G at the south end.

Steelwork for the structure was made in the UK by the Cleveland Bridge Company and Dorman Long and Company.

The large steel girder sections for the bridge were partially pre-assembled onshore then floated into place on construction barges.

Bad weather was often a challenge for workers on the project. When the 146m-long central span was floated across the harbour before being lifted into place there were over 30 mph winds.

More than 1,000 labourers worked on the project, including 180 sent out from the UK. 4 men fell to their deaths during the bridge's construction. There is a memorial to them on the North Shore.

"​‌

A ringing testament to… the peril of short-term thinking and penny-pinching.

New Zealand Herald

on building the bridge with only 4 lanes, 29 May 2009.

Fascinating facts

Around 154,000 vehicles use the bridge every day.

The bridge had an unusual moveable lane barrier installed in 1990. This was designed to prevent head-on crashes and improve traffic flow at rush hour.

The bridge is supposed to be haunted by a ghost. Locals have reported seeing the figure of a man floating above water level near the North Shore at dusk. The spook is said to be a fisherman who drowned in the harbour.

People who made it happen

  • Designers: Freeman, Fox and Partners
  • Construction engineers: Dorman Long, Cleveland Bridge and Engineering Company

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