Monday, 25 May 2015

MILESTONE: Opening of the Captain Cook Bridge (1965)

The Captain Cook Bridge as seen from Taren Point. The gates to the former punt are still there five decades later. 

On Friday (May 29), it will be fifty years since the Captain Cook Bridge was officially opened. Before 1965, there was only one bridge spanning the Georges River that linked the Sutherland Shire with Sydney - Tom Uglys Bridge at Sylvania. The original three-lane bridge was opened in 1929. Two punts were also in operation. One was downstream at Sans Souci at the end of Rocky Point Road linking the suburb with Taren Point. There was also the Lugarno Ferry at Lugarno.

The end of World War II fuelled a population boom in the Sutherland Shire. The land was subdivided into new housing estates. By 1961, the region had a population of 112 000. Yet there was one road crossing. At Tom Uglys Bridge, Sylvania motorists were forced to wait in long queues to access the bridge, particularly at weekends. Each lane was carrying as much if not more traffic than a typical lane on the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader was first published in 1960 and its lead story on its launch edition on June 29 1960, called for a bridge to replace the punt at Sans Souci. It would form a section of the proposed (and still is) Southern Expressway linking Wollongong with Sydney.

Page 1 of the first edition of The St George & Sutherland Shire Leader in June 1960 was calling for a new crossing over the Georges River.
Not long after this, tenders for a new bridge were called. The span would be 473 metres long  (road deck was 506 metres long) and contain six lanes to carry motor traffic.

Source: Anonymous. 1961. "Jumping-off Point".  The St George and Sutherland Leader, August 9: 1.

Construction began in 1962. John Holland was named as the winning tender.

Source: Anon. 1962. "New Bridge Goes Up". The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader, July 25: 1.

Here is a photo of construction from 1964 taken by Craig Birdsell as seen from Sylvania.

Source: Birdsell, Craig. 1964. "Untitled (Photograph)." 

Just months before opening, the spans met.

Source: Anon. 1965. "Bridging Distance". The Daily Telegraph, January 14: 11.

Below is a rare aerial of the completed bridge and punt taken days prior to the bridge opening.

Source: Anonymous. 1965. "Named for Captain Cook". The Daily Telegraph, May 27, 5. 

The bridge was opened to traffic on May 29 1965 after it was officially opened by NSW Governor Sir Eric Woodward. Five thousand people attended. A number of plaques were unveiled. They are located at both ends of the bridge and in the middle of the bridge.

The public was invited to walk over the bridge before motorists could finally use the bridge. In fact, that afternoon, the normally busy Tom Uglys Bridge was deserted as people wanted to see the new road for themselves, leading to significant congestion on the bridge approaches which lasted for the entire weekend.

Source: Anonymous. 1965. "Having a Look at the Bridge". The Daily Telegraph, May 31: 7. 

On that same day, the punt operated for the last time before being move upstream to Lugarno where it provided the punt service until 1974, one year after the opening of the Alfords Point Bridge.

I've also included the front page from The Propeller, which I scanned several years back to mark the opening of the bridge.

And last but not least, a photo spread from page three of the June 2, 1965 edition of The St George and Sutherland Shire Leader.

Finally, here is a newsreel clip courtesy of British Pathe that documented the opening of the bridge.

Updated November 2018 with the addition of a newspaper clipping. 

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