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At 81, Sydney Bridge Preps for Facelift

Friday, May 31, 2013

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Q: How many painters does it take to paint a coat hanger?

A: 50, when the hanger in question is the iconic Sydney Harbour Bridge.

Sydney Harbor Bridge
news.com.au

A worker makes a stretch in the bridge's early days. More historical bridge photos are available here.

Fondly known by locals as “the Coathanger,” the massive steel 81-year-old landmark is getting ready for its first complete paint job.

Lead Paint Replacement

The southern spans of the bridge, which links the northern and central parts of the city, will be abrasive blast cleaned to bare steel and repainted for the first time in its history. Some of the work will occur over city streets. The eight-lane bridge carries vehicular, pedestrian, rail and bicycle traffic.

The decades-old lead coating will be replaced by a non-lead-based system designed to last 30 years without fading or darkening, New South Wales Roads Minister Duncan Gay said in an announcement.

The icon’s color will remain its famous Harbour Bridge Grey, but the type of coating system was not released.

Sydney Harbor Bridge
Wikimedia / Rodney Haywood

The bridge spans Sydney Harbor. The Sydney Opera House, another national icon, is on the far left.

The blasting work will be carried out in sealed containment by workers wearing biotech suits, said a spokeswoman for Roads and Maritime Services NSW.

"Using lead-based products 81 years ago wasn't ideal, but the RMS has always worked to make sure there were measures in place so no danger was ever posed to the public," she said. "This continues with the repainting of the bridge in 2013."

‘Grande Dame’

“This Grande Dame of Sydney Harbour is getting a makeover with a high-performance, fade-resistant paint to help her endure the punishing conditions,” Gay said.

“We have 50 painters each day working away on various stages of the project, which is an investment in not just a key piece of infrastructure, but a much-loved icon.”

Sydney Harbour Bridge - historical
news.com.au

Construction workers of yesteryear take a break for a photo. Repainting the southern spans today will take 50 painters two years to complete and cost A$20 million, the government said.

The project will involve painting about 485,000 square meters of steelwork—the equivalent of 60 football (U.S. soccer) fields, various sites reported.

The A$20 million project ($19.2 million USD) will take about two years to complete, officials said.

Painting of the southern spans will come out of the bridge’s $18 million annual maintenance budget. After the southern spans are painted, crews will resume regular maintenance painting on the main arch and northern spans, Gay said.

National Icon

It would be difficult to overstate the importance of the Sydney Harbour Bridge—not just to the city, but to the whole of Australia.

“The displaced peoples of Europe who came to Australia in the days of the grand ships can get very misty when you ask them what they felt when they saw this grand old arch on their arrival in Sydney from the aftermath of World War Two as they sailed up Port Jackson (Sydney Harbour),” reports sydneyharbourbridge.info.

Sydney Harbor Bridge - archive
news.com.au

The steel through arch bridge opened March 19, 1932, after six years of construction.

At 1,149 meters (about 3,770 feet) long and 49 meters (nearly 161 feet) wide, the steel through arch bridge contains six million Australian-made rivets (the largest up to eight pounds and nearly 16 inches long), and the total steelwork weighs 52,800 tonnes, the site says. The bridge is 134 meters (440 feet) from the top of its arch to water level in the harbor.

Some 272,000 liters of paint (about 71,854 U.S. liquid gallons) were used to give the bridge its initial three coats, the site reports.

In the Limelight

The bridge is known internationally for the BridgeClimb Sydney event, which has drawn millions of visitors from more than 130 countries since it began in 1989. The Bridge Climb is a guided climb of the bridge’s southern half, making a formerly popular—but illegal—activity into a legal one.

Since 2009, BridgeClimb Sydney has also sponsored a Visitor Centre on the bridge.

BridgeClimb Sydney Sydney Bridge Climb
Creative Commons / Coolcaesar (left); BridgeClimb Sydney (right)

BridgeClimb Sydney has taken more than two million visitors (in harnesses) to the top of the bridge since 1989.

The coating project will work around these activities as much as possible, officials say.

“We need the Bridge in top condition,” said Gay. “She’s always in the limelight with thousands of international and local visitors flocking to visit and enjoy events like Vivid and New Year’s Eve fireworks.”

A gallery of historic photos showing the bridge's construction can be found here.

   

Tagged categories: Abrasive blasting; Bridges; Containment; Historic Structures; Lead; Painting Contractor

Comment from S Wolfe, (5/31/2013, 11:00 AM)

Australia's Eiffel Tower: a sublime beauty of a structure.


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