We can’t always predict the impact that decisions will have until we see that impact first-hand. Choices can pile up, new additions can be made to preexisting infrastructure, and the outcomes aren’t always as positive as they may have initially appeared. In the case of the Montague Street bridge, the otherwise-unassuming structure has been the cause of enough crashes, damages, and controversies that it has a reputation far beyond the street for which it is named.
From trucks to trailers to busses, the sheer number of crashes has led to the Montague Street bridge becoming synonymous with bizarre design decisions, as well as it developing a significant level of fascination as a local landmark of sorts. So, what has led to these issues, and what decisions have led to this particular light rail bridge having such a wide-reaching legacy of problems?
A Short-Sighted Approach: A Montague Street Bridge Crash History
The bridge, the site of 11 recorded impacts since 2018, has a height clearance of 3 metres, making it significantly shorter than many vehicles trying to drive beneath it. Despite having signage that explicitly states that larger vehicles should not approach, drivers who have underestimated the size disparity between their vehicles and the overpass have a long history of crashing into it nonetheless.
It’s understandable how this occurs; drivers often don’t know the exact dimensions of their vehicles, especially those that might be driving different trucks from day to day due to work obligations. With that said, despite the bridge being commissioned by the Johns & Waygood construction firm in 1914, the vast majority of height issues came quite a bit later. This is, in part, due to larger vehicles becoming more frequent in recent decades, but there is another factor that John & Waygood couldn’t have predicted which has led to the baffling legacy the bridge has today.
A Riding-High Revision: How the Montague Street Bridge Accidents Started
Around two years after the bridge was initially proposed, in 1916, the bridge’s underpass was known for issues of a different kind. Due to the level that the road had to be at for the overpass to make sense, the area surrounding the bridge had become a place of consistent flooding, making it nearly impossible for pedestrians to even go near it to use the transit system.
To solve this, in 1934, the South Melbourne city council of the time raised the level of the streets below by approximately two feet. Whilst this certainly made flooding less of a regular occurrence, its downgrade from approximately 11 feet 10 inches to the current 9 feet 10 inches created the new problem that we see today.
You Shall Not Pass: The Montague Street Bridge’s Warnings & Preventative Measures
In 2016, the Victorian government spent $800,000 on a gantry that would act as a final warning for large vehicles before going beneath the bridge. While some locals from the area were interviewed saying that they had doubts about it being particularly effective, the gantry was seen as one last safety measure after adding a wide array of warning signs leading up to the bridge. Victorian MP at the time, Daniel Andrews, referred to the structure in a Tweet, christening it Gandalf the Grey, “because you shall not pass”, which appears to have stuck in the public lexicon.
A History of Hindrance: How Often Does the Montague Street Bridge Get Hit?
According to an article by the Herald Sun in 2016, the bridge had been hit almost 100 times in the previous 6 years. These crashes are still so frequent that, in the filming of a short documentary about the bridge in question, the YouTuber Julian O’Shea caught a van getting caught beneath the bridge on camera while talking about it.
Doing It For the ‘Gram: Legacy of the Montague Street Bridge Today
In regard to its local cultural significance and fascination, there has been an abundance of websites, Instagram and Twitter accounts dedicated to the peculiar oddity of Melbourne’s public infrastructure. The most notable of these has been the site “How Many Days Since the Montague Street Bridge Has Been Hit?” which, while down at the time of writing, was made to provide a detailed list of every reported collision with the titular overpass, including dates and imagery where possible.
Other notable accounts dedicated to the bridge include @themontylimbo on Instagram, as well as @MontagueStBridg on Twitter which currently has over 14k followers. With even the gantry itself having Twitter accounts defending and lambasting it, the 100+ year history of this monument to peculiar planning is still going strong.
If you’re interested in learning more perfectly pleasant facts about South Melbourne landmarks, you can read our piece on the history and legacy of South Melbourne Town Hall. If not, have a great day, drive safe, and try to avoid getting decimated by our debatably evil short king of a bridge.