IT’S the icon of Brisbane and is as much a part of the city’s heart and character as the Opera House is to Sydney.
Story Bridge can also claim a couple of records – it is the longest cantilever bridge in Australia and it has the country’s – possibly the world’s – shortest highway.
This latter claim though is the subject of some debate.
The road across the Story Bridge is called the Bradfield Highway and its distance from one end of the bridge to the other is 1073 metres.
Some say the highway also includes a stretch of the entry road at Kangaroo Point leading up to the bridge, which would take it to 1.41km long – enough to lose it the title of the world’s shortest highway.
The Bradfield Highway is also the name of the road across the Sydney Harbour Bridge, but that’s not overly surprising as it was the same engineer, John Bradfield that designed both of them.
He was born in Brisbane in 1867 and died in Sydney in 1943.
Back to the heritage-listed Story Bridge, which crosses the Brisbane River between Fortitude Valley and Kangaroo Point with six lanes for traffic and pedestrian and cycleways on either side.
The walk across the bridge is the best lookout for miles, with spectacular views of both the city and the river.
Bridge climbing tours were introduced in 2005 but for me, the paths at the edge of the bridge on both the eastern and western sides serves perfectly well.
The traffic is heavy and non-stop as it’s a major link between north and south Brisbane, so a leisurely drive is out of the question.
The bridge was named for John Douglas Story, the influential Public Service Commissioner who lobbied strongly for its construction, although during its planning and construction it was called the Jubilee Bridge in honour of King George V.
Bradfield was asked to design a new bridge for Brisbane before Sydney Harbour Bridge opened in 1932, but was not officially appointed consulting engineer until December 15, 1933.
Six months later, his steel cantilever bridge was approved.
My Canadian visitor had already noted that the Story Bridge reminded him of the Jacques Cartier Bridge at home in Montreal, and as it turns out, Bradfield’s design was heavily based on the Montreal bridge which was built in 1930.
Evans Deakin and Hornibrook Constructions began construction of Story Bridge in May 1935.
Components were made at a purpose-built factory in the western suburb of Rocklea and work powered ahead, sometimes for 24 hours a day.
It has one pier on the northern bank and two on the lower southern – the main one to bear the weight, and one as an anchor to stop it twisting. On the northern side, it is anchored into the cliff face.
The two sides came together on October 28, 1939 and after the pavement and access roads were built, it was officially opened on July 6, 1940. The toll was sixpence, although this was dropped in 1947.
The numbers are: length 777 metres; 1.5 million rivets; it uses 17,500 litres of paint for its 105,000 square metres surface when it is repainted every seven years and it’s 80 metres above the water.
It’s also a picture at night, as it is lit up in different colours often chosen for major events such as the colour of sporting teams, charity awareness colours and most recently, blue for the birth of the royal baby.
I’ve been told it features in the Riverfire Festival in September, but I’ll have to wait and see that for myself.