Bridge for Bribie Island
Courtesy MBRC Image P1654___BRI_7254
Courtesy MBRC Image P1906
Courtesy MBRC Image P0768. Photo: Near North Coast News.
Courtesy MBRC Image P1654___BRI_7254
During the post-war period private motor cars had become increasingly popular, and the long steamship trips from Brisbane were no longer attractive. The resident population of Bribie was then about 500 people and the local car ferry cost was an expensive 10 shillings return.
During the post-war period private motor cars had become increasingly popular, and the long steamship trips from Brisbane were no longer attractive. The resident population of Bribie was then about 500 people and the local car ferry cost was an expensive 10 shillings return. There were increasingly long queues of cars waiting to get on and off the island.
The Brisbane Tug & Steamship Company relinquished their Steamships and assets on Bribie in 1953, and an attempt was made to maintain the service by a few residents who purchased the SS Koopa. It too soon failed, and from 1954 to 1963 motor vehicles by private car ferry was the only access to Bribie.
The first mention of a bridge to Bribie was made in 1947 by Queensland Premier Edward Hanlon when Development funds were announced, and he suggested a bridge. However, nothing happened then, and it was 10 years later in 1957 when Premier Vince Gair spoke about a possible “Pilot Station” being built on Bribie Island for shipping in and out of Brisbane.
In the 1957 State Election campaign opposition leader, Frank Nicklin promised Bribie Islanders “If I am returned to office I will build you a bridge”. Frank Nicklin was elected Premier, but his first action was to approve a “Pilot Station” to be constructed at Mooloolaba, in his own electorate.
From 1957 to 1959 there was a lot of agitation, public meetings and deputations regarding Nicklin’s promise of a bridge to Bribie Island. In 1958 a proposal was made by developer Alfred Grant Pty. Ltd. to obtain a large area of Crown Land on Bribie in return for building a free bridge to Bribie. This offer was never taken up.
In 1959 the State Government made an official announcement that Tenders would be called for the construction of a bridge to Bribie. A year later a contract was awarded to K.D. Morris to construct a bridge for 358,000 pounds ($716,000). Construction started in July 1961.
With 206 concrete piles 26m long to be accurately driven at different angles 10m into the sea bed, 104 girders weighing 12 tons each to be erected over 38 spans, it was the longest precast prestressed concrete bridge in Australia with an 832-metre span. A most impressive piece of Engineering produced a structure that was economical, durable and requiring minimum maintenance.
However, the years of promises and waiting, and the planned celebrations were crushed by the last minute announcement of a very expensive Toll for crossing the bridge. In June 1963, just weeks before opening, and in the middle of plans for great celebrations, the Government announced that there would be a toll of 10 shillings ($1) return for crossing the bridge.
This was the same expensive cost as the car Ferry, and ten times higher than the toll on the Hornibrook highway and the Story Bridge. Everyone was outraged at this last minute political announcement.
After years of planning and preparation the “Celebration Committee” disbanded and for a while, it looked as if the opening event would be boycotted but on 19th October 1963, after many years of political wrangling, the bridge was opened. A plaque was unveiled and Premier Nicklin announced that “it was not the Government’s intention to keep the Toll any longer than necessary.”
Despite the disappointment 14,000 cars paid the toll to cross the bridge in the first week, it was open, for a new experience of Bribie. The opening day was however a big success, with large crowds and processions of floats, horse drawn carts, vintage cars, marching bands and hundreds of vehicles driving to the island for the first time.
It was so busy that the bridge was declared “One-Way” on to Bribie in the morning, and then “One- Way” off in the afternoon.
Development plans and expected increase in residents though did not eventuate as expected, and the bridge was nicknamed the “Ned Kelly Bridge” as it was felt to be highway robbery.
When decimal currency was introduced in 1966 the 10-shilling Toll became $1, and throughout the 12 years, there were constant demands for concessions and reductions, some of which were eventually granted for Bribie residents.
The Bridge Toll remained in place for 12 years and was finally lifted in 1975 when the Government announced that the Bridge had been paid for.
When the bridge was opened in 1963 the resident population was about 700 people, and 12 years later in 1975, there were just 2000 residents.
Written by Barry Clark from information sourced from the BIHS database and the public domain.