Grafton Bridge, New South Wales

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Grafton Bridge, New South Wales
Grafton Bridge is a bascule bridge which spans the Clarence River in Grafton in New South Wales, Australia. Its upper level supports a two way road for traffic, and its lower level supports a rail bridge, a water main, and two footbridges on either side. The bascule span was operational until 1969. The bascule can no longer be raised due to an added water main. A bridge over the Clarence River in Grafton was first conceived in 1915. The original design called for a railway bridge with a footway, but in 1922 the design was changed to accommodate vehicular traffic as well. There is provision for a second track across the bridge but at this time it is being used as an easement for a water main. The Grafton Bridge was opened in 1932. With the decline in shipping along the Clarence River, the opening span was sealed shut and it can no longer be opened.

Local legend has it that the blind corner on the Northern end of bridge is because the roadway across the top of the bridge was originally intended to connect with Pound Street. According to the legend, a local councilor of the time owned a hotel on Fitzroy Street and wouldn't support building the bridge until the design was amended to connect with Fitzroy Street, directing traffic past his establishment, hence the unique kink in the northern roadway ramp. Regardless of the truth of the legend, a more practical explanation for the kinks either side of the bridge is that the roadway has to clear the railway line below it, necessitating the bends in the bridge. The bends themselves present something of a dangerous situation for wide vehicles attempting to cross the bridge, and for travellers unaccustomed to the nuisance, which locals navigate at some speed, since the high iron sides of the narrow bridge obscure vision and threaten to prevent traffic flow if encountered by the vehicle. As a result of this, it is often necessary for smaller vehicles to stop prior to the bends to make way for larger vehicles which are unable to negotiate the bends while remaining in their own lane.

The Government of New South Wales commissioned a study into an additional crossing in 2002. An inspection of the iconic bridge was undertaken by Federal and Local government representatives in October 2008 because the existing bridge is no longer coping with the increasing volume of traffic. The fight for a new crossing of the Clarence river has been a long haul because of the large costs involved, up to 100 million. As of 2009 no funding has yet been allocated to a new bridge despite local opinion that a new one is needed.