PHOTO: The Auckland Harbour Bridge in 1959 - as it looked before the "clip-ons." (Sir George Grey Special Collections, Auckland Libraries, 654-29)
Auckland Harbour bridge announced
As early as 1860, engineer Fred Bell, commissioned by North Shore farmers wanting to herd animals to market in Auckland, had proposed a harbour crossing in the general vicinity of the bridge. It would have used floating pontoons, but the plan failed due to the £16,000 cost estimate.
This was a proposal published in an Auckland publication in 1911 for a proposed Harbour Bridge with trams and trains from Ponsonby Wharf to Chelsea.
In 1946 a Royal Commission recommended a harbour bridge of five or six traffic lanes, with one or two of them to be reversed in direction depending on the flow of traffic, and with a footpath for pedestrians on each side.
Such features were rejected for cost reasons when the government of the day chose an 'austerity' design of four lanes without footpaths and it would have no capacity for trains.
It was built at a cost of £7,516,000. Constructed of structural steel and reinforced concrete, the bridge spans 1.2 kilometres across the Waitemata Harbour. The bridge reaches 64 metres above the water at its highest point, the top of the arch. There are actually three bridges within the Auckland Harbour Bridge. The section in the middle with the steep arches and flags on top is the original four-lane ‘truss’ bridge, plus the two clip-ons.
The bridge was officially opened on 30 May 1959 by the Governor-General Lord Cobham. In 1959, 11,205 vehicles crossed the bridge daily.
Cars and taxis were tolled 2 shillings and 6 pence - 25c. The toll on the Auckland Harbour Bridge was abolished in 1984.
The harbour bridge quickly needed an expansion. Between 1967 and 1969 the bridge was widened by adding two Japanese-designed dual-lane steel box extensions to its outside. The four extra lanes which became colloquially known as the 'Nippon Clip-ons' provided more capacity.