Digging around online the other day I came across an Auckland Council Archives webpage with a series of old plans and charts on early Auckland harbour bridge and tunnel concepts. I do recommend having a poke around for fans of this sort of thing.
The one plan that really caught my eye was the one below, a 1930s concept for a suspension bridge from Devonport to Parnell. Click this link for the full size version.
Look at that: tall towers with graceful parabolas of cable holding up a long spanning slender deck. Boy I do love a good suspension bridge! And check the engineers stamp in the bottom right corner. None other than J.J. Bradfield himself, designer of both the Sydney Harbour Bridge and the connected City Circle underground rail system.
With 175 feet (54m) clearance above the water this would have had more room under it than our existing bridge, however it would have ended up on the wrong side of the modern container port. If they had built this perhaps the port would have been forced to move out by now.
The four lanes and two tram tracks sounds like just what we need today, if you could squeeze in a footpath and cycleway. Having said that, you can presume the trams would have been ripped out and the bridge converted to a six lanes all for traffic like so many bridges from that era.
I also wonder what would have become of the motorway system without the harbour bridge to Northcote Point, presumably spaghetti junction would have ended up further east and Parnell would be sliced in half by a motorway. Would we lament the swathe carved through Devonport and Bayswater the way we lament the long gone villas of Newton gully and the lost beaches at St Marys Bay, or would we simply forget like we have the City of Cork Beach? Perhaps the Eastern Motorway would have been built, perhaps instead of the Southern?
In any case, the shape of our city would have been considerably different. A reminder that new transport infrastructure shapes our future city as much as it responds to our existing one.
…and doesn’t it make our actual bridge look like an ugly bugger in comparison?