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Hamilton has a wonderful asset in the Waikato river that runs through the City and it does present a transport challenge. There are six road bridges across the Waikato within the City, as well as a service bridge that is also used by pedestrians and cyclists.
The oldest is the Claudelands bridge that was constructed as a railway bridge in 1884. In the 1960s the railway line through the central city was lowered and a new railway bridge built. The old bridge was gifted to the city and it was converted to a traffic bridge in 1968 by building a steel deck structure on top of the old trusses. This bridge is one of the oldest major bridges still in service in the country.
The Victoria Bridge was opened in 1910 and it replaced an old timber bridge that had served the two communities of Hamilton West and Hamilton East for almost 30 years. Its graceful steel arch was fabricated by the Cleveland Bridge Company in the UK and shipped to NZ for erection. This company went on to construct many famous bridges throughout the world including the original Auckland Harbour Bridge.
In 1937 the Fairfield bridge was built by the Waikato County. It was a long way out in the country and some doubted that it would be well used. It is a concrete bowstring arch bridge.
The Cobham Drive – or Southern Arterial – project saw the next bridge built. Structurally it is a simple steel plate girder with a concrete deck. This bridge is on the State Highway network and is managed and maintained by the New Zealand Transport Agency.
The Whitiora and Pukete bridges are both concrete box structures and were opened in 1978 and 1996 respectively. The Pukete bridge is currently being modified so that it can carry four lanes of traffic on the original structure. To do this a new footpath and cycle path is being attached to the upstream side of the bridge.
These bridges collectively carry about 135,000 vehicles across the river every day. They are vital to our transport network. They are inspected and maintained regularly to ensure they will give good service to the community for many more years.
The Claudelands, Victoria and Fairfield bridges are important historic structures and are protected by the NZ Historic Places Trust.