Cornelian Bay is a sheltered cove to the north of the city centre, Queen’s Domain and Tasman Bridge. Our afternoon walk started on the beach, then along the coastal path past the picturesque and colourful boathouses that have been on this site for almost a hundred years. Although wooden buildings with a tin roof, they are connected to electricity and range from being flaky, literally, to ship shape.
The path meandered along the waterfront, at times backing on to the rocky waters edge, the beach areas covered in oyster shells. At other times the path rose through bush with glimpses of the water and the bridge through the trees.
The path continued underneath the Tasman Bridge that links the suburbs on the eastern shore with the city centre and western shore.
The first bridge to replace ferries was a floating bridge that operated for twenty one years. The curved bridge of floating pontoons was an intriguing design and engineering feat in the 1940’s. One section of the bridge could be lifted on two gantry’s to allow river traffic to pass.
The current Tasman Bridge was opened in 1964 as a four lane highway. A tragic accident in 1975 occurred when a ship went off course and crashed into the bridge, knocking out two piers. A section of bridge collapsed onto the ship, sinking it, killing seven crew members. Five others were killed as their cars plunged into the river from the bridge. News photos of the incident show two cars hanging precariously over the edge of the broken bridge.
The eastern suburbs had expanded when the bridge was built. After the accident the fifty thousand residents had to revert to a fifty kilometre trip to the nearest bridge, or again rely on ferries.
The piers holding up the bridge are no longer symmetrical. Due to the sunken ship on the river bed, replacement piers could not be placed in the original positions. It took two years to
repair the bridge. At the same time, an extra lane was added to the road, utilising the original pedestrian path, adding a new suspended walkway on the side.
As with other antipodean city bridges, the middle lane is a reversible lane, with signs and lights above each lane indicating traffic direction. This allows three lanes towards the city in morning rush hour, with two lanes leaving the city. This is reversed for evening traffic, with two lanes into the city and three lanes heading away from the city.