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West Gate Bridge
West Gate and Boat
Some attributes
First Official name:

The Western Highland Gate Bridge

Second Crosses:

Yarra River

Third Design:

Cable-stayed box girder

Other attributes
Fourth Total length:

2,582.6 metres (8,473.1 ft)

The West Gate Bridge is a steel box girder cable-stayed bridge in Melbourne, Victoria, Australia. It spans the Yarra River, just north of its mouth into Port Phillip, and is a vital link between the inner city and Melbourne's western suburbs with the industrial suburbs in the west and with the city of Geelong, 80 kilometres (50 mi) to the south-west.

The main river span is 336 metres (1,102 ft) in length, and the height above the water is 58 metres. The total length of the bridge is 2,582.6 metres (8,473.1 ft). It is the third longest in Australia behind the Houghton Highway and the Hornibrook Bridge, and is twice as long as the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

The bridge passes over Westgate Park, a large environmental and recreational reserve created during the bridge's construction.

Transportation

Motor vehicles

The West Gate Bridge carries five lanes of motor vehicle traffic in each direction.

The bridge was originally tolled. Tolls were abolished in 1985, because drivers were using other routes to avoid the toll.

Cycling and the Westgate

Cyclists are prohibited from using the bridge except for special bicycle events, notably the "MS Summer cycle" which is a fundraising event for multiple sclerosis and the "Around the bay in a day" Bicycle Victoria event that raises money for the charity The Smith Family. The Westgate Punt is a ferry that runs directly below the bridge taking cyclists and pedestrians across the Yarra between a jetty at Fishermans Bend near Westgate Park – Bay Trail and a jetty adjacent to Scienceworks Museum – Hobsons Bay Coastal Trail. Operating Monday to Friday in morning and evening peaks and on weekends and public holidays, 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on demand.

Expansion

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Construction on the Bridge in 1969

On 17 May 2006, the State Government as part of their Meeting Our Transport Challenges plan announced plans to change traffic flow in peak periods on the West Gate Bridge and approaches to it, using a reversible lane to provide five traffic lanes in the peak direction, opposing traffic having three lanes. This was to be done using overhead signals and barriers and the State Government allocated funds to this project in its 2006–2007 state budget, but the works were never carried out.

In 2008 the expansion plans were revised as part of the Victorian Transport Plan, when it was announced that the bridge would be widened to 5 lanes in each direction, the space being gained by narrowing the existing traffic lanes and closing the emergency lanes, in a move criticised by Victorian fire, police and ambulance unions. Overhead gantries would be used to direct traffic out of lanes when breakdowns and accidents occur. Costed at $240 million, each lane would be 3.1 metres wide, by comparison lanes on the Sydney Harbour Bridge have a width of 2.8 metres. Roads Minister Tim Pallas claimed that the plan would allow the bridge to carry 50 percent more vehicles, while reducing crashes by 20 percent. Structural analysis work on the bridge concluded in early 2009 and was completed over a 14-month period. Works to strengthen the bridge commenced in the first half of 2009, with the entire strengthening project scheduled for completion in 2011.

On 22 June 2011 all five lanes were finally opened to the public in both directions, with the completion of the required strengthening works. The full cost was $347 million, $107 million more than VicRoads had planned. This cost increase was after the deletion of $20 million decorative lighting originally included in the scope of the works. The engineers for the strengthening project, Flint & Neill and Sinclair Knight Merz, won the 2012 Institution of Structural Engineers Supreme Award for structural engineering for the project.

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