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Pedestrian Bridge Across Mordialloc Creek

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Mordialloc Predestrian Bridge, 2002.

For most of the twentieth century the Mordialloc Creek formed a boundary between the municipalities of Chelsea and Mordialloc, and historically, a barrier for people wishing to move between Melbourne and the Mornington Peninsula. A bridge across the creek was constructed on the Schnapper Point or Point Nepean Road in the 1850s to facilitate movement, and it was restructured several times since to accommodate an increasing volume of traffic. [1]

The Mordialloc Council first discussed the need for a new bridge across the Mordialloc creek in 1962 but nothing further was done at that time. It was ten years later when a request was made to the Country Roads Board for help but again no action eventuated. [2]

Two government secondary schools, Mordialloc Chelsea High School and Aspendale Technical School, were located on the south side of the Mordialloc Creek but a substantial portion of their student numbers resided to the north. Access for these students to their schools was via the Mordialloc Bridge. Dorothy Meadows, a teacher at Mordialloc Chelsea High School, claimed that for the sake of student safety an alternative route needed to be provided. At the time the bridge was a road bridge with a narrow footpath.

One of the solutions Dorothy Meadows suggested in her report on the safety of student cyclists in Chelsea, was the construction of a pedestrian bridge across the upper reaches of the creek. [3] She provided data from a traffic count of motor vehicles using the Mordialloc Bridge and pointed to the hazardous behaviour of cyclists in the situation prevailing at that time. Many students used routes to school via the Mordialloc Bridge which involved them crossing dangerous intersections. Moreover, they often rode two or three abreast carrying heavy bags usually suspended from handlebars or backs of saddles increasing the difficulty of maintaining their balance and controlling their machines. Many students, Meadows suggested, lacked knowledge of the road rules, expected traffic to give way to them, and gave little thought to safety when riding. She said the Mordialloc police were aware that many students rode on the footpath when crossing Mordialloc Bridge.

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Riggers preparing to place central pins into position. Mordialloc-Chelsea High School in background, 1982.

An environmental impact study, commissioned by the Mordialloc City Council of Yunken and Freeman, focused primarily upon controlling pollution in the creek but it also made a recommendation that several new footbridges be built to improve access to both banks of the creek. [4]

A step forward in achieving this goal was an agreement between the Chelsea and Mordialloc councils in May 1978 to seek funding from the State government for a footbridge across the creek near Chute Street and Mordialloc Chelsea High School. While Chelsea was not prepared to commit itself to contributing to the cost, it was prepared to join a deputation with Mordialloc to plead the case with the Premier Rupert Hamer for a $50,000 laminated timber bridge. [5]

As a result of the delegation Mr Hamer agreed that the government would provide one third of the cost provided the two municipalities shared the remaining expenses. But Chelsea was still reluctant at that time to find their share so the proposal remained dormant until 1980 when the design process began.

A decision was made to construct a single spanned bridge using laminated timber rather than the more expensive concrete and steel form used in many similar situations. The bridge had to span 40 metres, be of a height that allowed unimpeded access to the creek by pleasure and fishing boats, and be aesthetically pleasing to the eye.

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The completed bridge showing detail of approach spans to main beams.

Martin Aylward, the Deputy City Engineer of the City of Mordialloc, was placed in charge and given the responsibility of providing the basic design, as he had had experience with designing laminated timber bridges when employed by the City of Kew. There he had been involved in designing a bridge to cross the Yarra River, an experience which provided the foundation for his work at Mordialloc. The final design was described by Tony Rijs, an engineer at Mordialloc, as ‘a three pin structure’, connected by pins to solid concrete abutments on each bank of the creek and in the centre where two members fitted together by compression. The bridge was about 1.2 metres wide with steel bracing beneath the walkway to prevent the bridge swaying. The span was approximately 40 metres in length. [6] The final cost was $72,250 with the State Government contributing $25,000. Mordialloc and Chelsea councils each paid half of the remainder. [7]

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One of the pins used in the structure of the bridge.

Hunter Timber Industries of Nelson in New Zealand were successful with their tender to provide the beams, posts and rails and it was at a factory in Braeside that these parts were assembled and given a protective covering by a process of hot dip emersion. After being transported to the site on Mordialloc Creek, Kevin Johnson and Associated, a Melbourne company with considerable experience with timber structures and jetty construction, undertook the task of erection.

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The laminated timber used in constructing the spans.

As the bridge was arguably the biggest joint undertaking by the municipalities of Mordialloc and Chelsea it was appropriate that the Mordialloc Pedestrian Bridge was jointly opened by the mayors of the two cities; Cr Fred Finn and Cr Tom Johnston, on August 1, 1982. The bridge remains unnamed but the family of Dorothy Meadows, the teacher of Mordialloc Chelsea High School who gathered the data to demonstrate the need for such a structure, refer to it as ‘Dorothy’s Bridge’. [8]

Author

Graham J Whitehead

Footnotes

  1. Moorabbin News, November 13, 1919.
  2. Mordialloc Chelsea News, July 21, 1982.
  3. Meadows, D., Report on the Safety of Student Cyclists in the City of Chelsea, August 1975.
  4. Yunken and Freeman Architects Pty Ltd, Mordialloc Creek Study 1975.
  5. Mordialloc Chelsea News, May 10, 1978.
  6. Whitehead, G., Interview with Tony Rijs, General Manager Services, City of Kingston, 2002.
  7. Mordialloc Chelsea News, July 21, 1982.
  8. Personal communication.

Article Cat. Historical Features
Article Ref. 200

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