State's third longest road bridge turns 40

28 March 2017

Member for Cootamundra Katrina Hodgkinson says it’s a little known fact that the Sheahan Bridge across the Murrumbidgee River at Gundagai is the third longest in NSW.

The composite steel and concrete bridge will celebrate its 40th birthday this month.

Robert Butcher, the lifetime Treasurer of the Gundagai Historic Bridges Inc society says he is proud of the Bridge’s place in Australian history.

“When it was completed in 1977, it was the second longest road bridge in NSW,” he said. “At 1143 metres long, the Sydney Harbour Bridge is only six metres longer.”

“It only became the State’s third longest road bridge in 2013 after the 3.2 kilometre Macleay Bridge was officially opened.”

The Sheahan Bridge is made up of 27 spans, including three across the main channel and 24 spans forming a viaduct across the floodplain on the southern side of the bridge.

The massive construction took around three years to build.

Mr Butcher, a lifelong resident of Gundagai, can remember the day the Sheahan Bridge was opened by the then Premier Neville Wran, March 25, 1977.

“Gundagai is not a big place, but there were 3000 people there for the bridge opening,” he said.

“Officially named after Billy Sheahan, who was the state Member for Burrinjuck between 1941 and 1973 at the time.”

The historical society was formed the year after the bridge was built and Mr Butcher has been Treasurer since the first meeting.

“You’ve got to fight for your history,” he said. “There are quite a few historic bridges in the area, including the Prince Alfred Bridge which was opened in 1877, named after Queen Victoria’s second son Prince Alfred who had an assassination attempt while visiting Clontarf in Sydney the same year.”

The society was successful in the fight to retain the ageing Prince Alfred Bridge, which came in handy in the early 1980s.

In 1984 the Sheahan Bridge was closed for extensive repairs after a loaded petrol tanker caught fire and damaged the bridge surface when it clipped the back of a backhoe while travelling across the bridge.

“Traffic was diverted back on to the Prince Alfred Bridge for the duration of repairs to the Sheahan Bridge,” Mr Butcher recalls.

“First there had to be an engineer’s assessment, but the repairs took months.”

View the original media release.

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