|If the 1920s are to be regarded as introducing a new era of bridge design construction, then this 1929 bridge is the crowning achievement of the decade.
A proposal for a bridge across the Georges River in this vicinity was considered as far back as 1891 but no action ensued, so a ferry continued service until the 1920's by which time the "explosion" in motor traffic caused serious delays in making the crossing. The nearest other crossings were also ferries, a short distance downstream at Taren Point and a lot further upstream at Lugarno and neither had the capacity to relieve the congestion at Sylvania. Any bridge would o necessity be a major project and the prospect of government intervention was low.
Sutherland Shire council, aware of the restrictions the lack of a bridge was having on the development of its own domain and that of areas further south, and of the economic costs of continued congestion, decided at its meeting on 161 May, 1923 to initiate moves with the Government, to finance a bridge itself. Sutherland Shire Council was making history for up to that time no Council had ever pledged its revenue for such a major public work.
President C J Munro made a personal commitment to "see the project through". The Government acted quickly in endorsing the scheme by passing the Georges Ricer Act on 12 December, 1923 which included the provision that tolls be levied to repay the money to be borrowed by Council. The estimated cost of the bridge was 190, 000 pounds.
Sutherland Shire Council was making history for up to that time no Council had ever pledged its revenue for such a major public work.
Design of the bridge was prepared by the Public Works Department under the direction of the esteemed Percy Allan, chief Engineer for National and Local Government Works. He supervised construction until March 1926 when his assistant Spencer Dennis took charge. The successful tenders were Armstrong Whitworth Pty Ltd, Scotland, for supply of the steelwork, and Sate Monier Pipe and Reinforced Concrete Works, Sydney, for the construction. The Council borrowed 225,000 pounds via Atlas Assurance Co. of London at 5.5% to be repaid in 20 years. The foundation stone was laid by the Minister for Works, R T Ball, on 7 June 1924.
Overall, construction proceeded reasonably well but there were some financial problems and unexpected problems occurred with the northern (Sydney end) foundations. The steel trusses were assembled nearby on large barges, floated out on a high tide and lowered with a falling tide onto the bearings. The superstructure comprised six 225-feet (69.5m) through Pratt trusses and three 90-feet (27.4m) deck plate web girders. The bridge was fully imported made from Cargo Fleet steel, and the concrete deck was supported on steel buckled plates between the steel stringers.
There was a great deal of prestige and Council pride enshrined in the bridge so a degree of ornamentation was incorporated into the piers and abutments, the former by the use of local-piered concrete diaphragms and the latter with sandstone faced abutments creating a gateway effect. The bridge was opened by the State Governor, Sir Dudley de Chair, on 11 May, 1929, a five year project with a final cost of 308,509 pounds.
Tolls were levied until 31 May 1952 after they had generated enough revenue to meet all loan indebtedness. But the inexorable increase in traffic volumes with lengthy delays at peak hours and holiday times led to the decision around 1980 to build a duplicate crossing on the downstream side. It was to be a change in technology with state-of-the-art three continuous welded steel boxes, incrementally launched from the Sylvania shore then topped with a concrete deck. It was opened, toll free, on 17 October, 1987 for the southbound traffic with the old bridge assigned to northbound traffic.