New but nameless, we can cross that Liffey bridge when we come to it (in February)
A new bridge for the new year as bridge across the Liffey nears completion
Construction work under way on the bridge that will span the river Liffey from Eden Quay to Burgh Quay in Dublin. Photograph: Alan Betson
Following the pouring of 4,400 tonnes of concrete, the laying of 500 tonnes of steel, and an overrun of approximately 10 months, the 21st bridge to cross the Liffey in Dublin city is set to open in about six months time.
Although it remains nameless, the new public transport bridge spanning the river between Marlborough Street and Hawkins Street, just east of O’Connell Bridge, is almost complete and while an official opening date has yet to be set, is due to be ready for use by February of next year. The “heavy lifting” phase of construction is almost at an end, with just 2-2½ months more work before the deck is completed and the river is effectively bridged.
The remaining period will be spent laying the Luas track in the centre of the bridge, laying out the two bus and cycle lanes, adding granite footpaths, constructing flood protection walls, which double as public seating, and installing balustrading.
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A bridge at this location was proposed by the city council as far back as 1997, but at that stage it was earmarked for a pedestrian only crossing, primarily aimed at drawing punters to the Abbey Theatre, but also part of wider plans for the rejuvenation of the O’Connell Street area.
The council was still talking about a pedestrian bridge when in 2003 it announced the extension of the Liffey boardwalk from O’Connell Bridge to Butt Bridge. It was the advent of plans to connect the Red and Green Luas lines which expanded the council’s ambitions for the bridge.
In 2005, five proposed routes for the cross-city Luas line were announced, two of which required a bridge at Marlborough Street. The following year the Railway Procurement Agency announced its preferred route for the line, confirming the need for the bridge.
It was not until mid-2008, however, when the council announced that a public transport bridge was to be constructed at a cost of €15 million. Work was due to begin in late 2009 and take approximately 18 months.
The economic crash intervened and funding wrangles followed; at one stage cost estimates are understood to have risen to €18 million and work on site did not get under way until November 2011. The delay may have been a blessing in disguise as, according to city engineer Michael Phillips, the project is likely to come in around the €13 million mark.
Motorists who haul themselves up and down the city quays on a regular basis will note that the 18-month time line, approximations aside, has not been met. Although the quays remain open to traffic, Burgh Quay in particular – the south side of the river – is considerably harder to navigate having lost a lane to the construction site and being subject to often confusing streaming of traffic.