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Fremantle Stuff > bridges. See also: railway bridges, ferries.

Fremantle Traffic Bridge 1939

Fremantle has had arguably five road bridges crossing the Swan River, two of which remain. A new one is now (2020) planned.
North Fremantle Bridge aka High Level Bridge, 1866-1909
Low Level Bridge, 1898-1909
Renovated High Level Bridge, 1909-1939/1947
Fremantle Traffic Bridge, 1939-
Stirling Bridge, 1974-

traffic bridge

The present Fremantle Traffic Bridge, opened 15 December 1939. The 1940s photo shows the 1909 RHLB still in position on the right. The newer bridge was intended to be used for not more than five years. It is still in use.

Photo courtesy of Roger Garwood, c. 1977. John Dowson's comments: 'It shows a denuded Cantonment Hill, a signal station with advertising, the original railings of the bridge before before ruined by Main Roads, traditional pavement on the right, the naval store before their hideous artwork ...'

The Fremantle Traffic Bridge was cheaply built out of timber rather than concrete because it was thought then that the Harbour would be extended further east. However, it has been repaired, notably in 1978, 1992 and 2016, and is still in use, though there are now (2020) plans to replace it. See the bottom of this page for a 2019 proposal for its use as a pedestrian bridge.

Aerial photo from 1947 showing the first rail bridge on the left, the 1939 traffic bridge in the middle, and the remains of the not-yet-demolished RHLB. The red-ringed building is a PWD depot - on what is now Beach Street Reserve, roughly where The Kiosk now stands.

traffic bridge

My photo shows the 1939 bridge with the still existing remains of some of the piles of the 1866 bridge in the foreground.


I took this photo of defensive work on the traffic bridge February 2016.

Fremantle Traffic Bridge Closed
​The Fremantle Traffic Bridge and northern river channel will be CLOSED by 7pm Friday 29 April as a precautionary safety measure, after concerns were raised following an inspection associated with current strengthening works. The examination found erosion at the foundation at one of the bridge's four piers. Further detailed investigations, as well as strengthening works, will now be undertaken. 29 April 2016


The City of Fremantle’s vision for the replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge, 2019.

This map, supplied to the Fremantle Society Facebook page 5 June 2020 by Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan, contains a set of proposals for the replacement of the present Traffic Bridge, new train lines, and a realignment of the truck route to avoid the centre of North Fremantle.

From: - Roel Looper's blog, 25 June 2020

Fremantle community wants new bridge involvement

A late item about the new Fremantle traffic bridge was added to last night’s Fremantle Council meeting agenda, at the initiative of Mayor Brad Pettitt. This is very important because Freo Council and the community need to be proactive on this, to make sure that we not only get an outstanding new bridge of great creative design, but also that the old heritage-listed bridge will be preserved for the community.

The community wants a significant say in this and at the very early stages of planning, because we don’t want this project delayed by being presented with plans that are finalised and not negotiable. The bridge will be a new entry statement into Fremantle and hence needs to be attractive, maybe even one tourists can climb on to and get great views of Fremantle Port and the Swan River, like the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

1. Welcomes the Federal and State funding commitment of $230m for the Swan River Crossing project, a project that will see major infrastructure delivered that will have an asset life in excess of 100 years;

2. Adopts the following principles to assist with the City’s analysis and feedback to Government as the project unfolds and develops:

1. PLANNING–That the State Government provides clarity around how this project supports the long-term strategic planning scenarios for the region and how transport planning is fully integrated within this, and specifically how options will address:
• the recommendations of the Westport Taskforce in relation to the future of the Inner Harbour of Fremantle Port;
• land use, traffic, freight and passenger rail planning options for the areas on the north and south of the proposed new crossing;

2. ALIGNMENT & CONNECTIONS – That the new bridge alignment(s) are optimised in terms of:
• long-term planning scenarios;
• uninterrupted flow / connectivity of the state’s Principle Shared Path (PSP) to Fremantle and North Fremantle Rail Stations.
• low-speed cycling and pedestrian connectivity and amenity;
• cultural heritage and place-making, in particular, impact on Fremantle Traffic Bridge.

3. DESIGN–That the Swan River Crossing demonstrates excellence in design – delivering infrastructure through a multi-discipline design process that celebrates contemporary bridge design and creates a memorable gateway experience and a place for people.

4. HERITAGE – That a significant portion of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge is preserved at both ends – especially on the southern end – and adapted in a manner that:
• retains pedestrian and cycling functions on its top deck;
• retains a section over Beach Street, including its abutment and architectural embellishments;
• is activated, connected and generates a destination for people on the foreshore;
• remains an asset of the State Government.

5. CULTURE–That the Aboriginal significance of this rivercrossing/ location is clearly understood, respected and interpreted in the design and deliverables. This could be a major component of the % for Art program associated with this project.

6. PUBLIC REALM & PLACE – That all public realm either created or modified by this project is safe, attractive, connected and inviting – with the potential to be extended and further connected with future riverside enhancements and developments – specifically, that increased curtilage is created in front of the Naval Stores building on Canning Highway to assist with activating this building and connection to foreshore.

3. Requests that MRWA commence community engagement as soon as possible, and that this engagement process includes a full and transparent evaluation of design options and bridge alignments that respond to the principles noted above;

4. Determines a final position on the various aspects of the Swan River Crossing in light of the comments and results that arise during the community engagement process.

From the Mayor's Blog, 26 June 2020:
Community input crucial to design of new Fremantle Traffic Bridge

Fremantle Council is urging the state government to ensure the local community is properly consulted on the design of the replacement Fremantle Traffic Bridge.
The state and federal governments committed matching funding to the $230 million project last year, while earlier this year the new bridge was included on a list of projects to be fast tracked as part of the state government’s COVID-19 economic recovery measures.
The new bridge provides a once-in-a-generation opportunity to deliver an iconic infrastructure project in Fremantle.
The City of Fremantle has been advocating for the replacement of the Fremantle Traffic Bridge for many years, so we welcome the investment by the state and federal governments in this much needed new infrastructure.
The traffic bridge is a critical gateway into Fremantle so we want to ensure that the design of the new bridge is befitting of its prominent location and that the overall project helps to improve the connectivity between North Fremantle, Cantonment Hill, Victoria Quay and the river foreshore.
The City of Fremantle is already receiving significant community correspondence on this project and it’s important we get this right, which is why we’re encouraging the state government to consult widely with the local community and listen to what they have to say.
At a meeting on Wednesday, Fremantle Council voted to request that Main Roads WA commence community engagement on the new bridge as soon as possible, and that this engagement process include a full and transparent evaluation of at least two different design options and bridge alignments.
The council also adopted a number of design principles in relation to the project including:

The bridge should demonstrate excellence in design and create a memorable gateway experience.

The public realm resulting from the project is safe, attractive, connected and inviting.

The character of the North Fremantle townsite is protected from additional traffic impacts and extended towards the river.

The project should deliver uninterrupted connectivity of the PSP cycle path to Fremantle and North Fremantle rail stations.

A significant portion of the existing heritage-listed Fremantle Traffic Bridge is preserved, especially at the southern end, and able to be used and activated.

The significance of the location to Traditional Owners is clearly understood, respected and interpreted in the design.

We understand the community concern and the complex issues regarding this major project and we expect an open and transparent community engagement process from Main Roads WA.
While the council will reserve its final decision until after the consultation process is complete, the principles we have adopted provide a very clear message about what we see as integral to the project’s success.
The existing Fremantle Traffic Bridge was officially opened on 15 December 1939 and was originally designed as a temporary structure.
It was temporarily closed in 2016 after erosion around its pylons made it unstable.

From Deputy Mayor Andrew Sullivan in Facebook 6 June 2020:

The Fremantle Traffic Bridge was built in 1939 as a temporary structure that was supposed to last just five years. The plan at the time was to expand the port further east and so the bridge would soon need to be relocated. Presumably the expansion never went ahead because of WWII, and then the subsequent rapid advances that were made in both shipping and cargo handling in the post war period.
The rail bridge we see today was opened in 1960 as a replacement for the original rail bridge that was 350 metres to the west. The new bridge was positioned to the east as part of plans to build the very first container berth in Australia. The new bridge was just one part of a significant re-alignment of the rail corridor through North Fremantle that also included new bridges over the soon to be widened Tydeman Road.
Bridge building in Fremantle has always been an integral part of the ongoing development of the port city. Their placement locks in how the areas around them are used and developed for decades to come. Hence, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to get this right!!
The current process aims to deliver new road and rail bridges to last 100 years. Unlike in the past, there has been no strategic planning review to guide how best to deliver this quarter billion dollars worth of new infrastructure.
The new bridges are proposed to be jammed in between the rail bridge and the Northbank development. This will be an absurdly tight squeeze, and inherently ugly. More critically, it will lock in regional transport routes in a way that will destroy the beautiful North Fremantle town centre that has only just been brought back to life. It also does nothing to facilitate the massive development opportunities that exist, ones that would open up our river foreshores for all to enjoy.
Bridges should bring communities together, not divide and destroy them. We need our government to pause for a moment, to rethink this, and to ensure these new structures are located so as to truly deliver community and land use benefits either side of the river.
... the Stock Rd bridge was in the earliest plans produced by Stephenson and Hepburn in the 1950s, but was politically unpalatable. Logically, the idea was to introduce a third crossing point over the Swan River. It was to connected Pt Walter to Pt Resolution being the narrowest point mid-way along the massive estuary between Perth and Fremantle. When those plans were scrapped to protect Dalkeith and Nedlands, it pretty much meant the only way to get north-south other than via the freeway would be through North Fremantle. When Stirling Bridge was built it dissected the North Fremantle community from its historic town centre.

Main Roads August 2020 Statement (part)

The State Government is committed to retaining a significant part of the existing Fremantle Traffic Bridge on the southern foreshore. Full retention is not possible due to constraints including:
after 80 years of service and costly ongoing repairs, the existing structure is at the end of its life and retention presents a safety risk; and
retaining pylons will create further navigational hazards for boat users on this busy part of the Swan River.

References and Links

Fowler, Audrey 1974, Notes on the oldest traffic bridge in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society, March.

Pettitt, Brad, 2019, The mayor's blog entry welcoming the bridge funding commitment, 28 March: 'Our plan is for a new bridge to be built between the existing traffic bridge and the rail bridge, and to convert the old bridge into a pedestrian and cycleway.'

Wikipedia article on Queen Victoria Street.

Engineering Heritage Panel, Swan & Canning Rivers Bridges: Australian Engineering Week Tour 2009.

Brief note about the Stirling Bridge construction in Fremantle, the newsletter of the Fremantle Society: November 2000.

ABC article about the four Canning Bridges.

'New Fremantle Traffic Bridge funded in State Budget', govt media statement, 22 April 2019.

See also: page for Fremantle Society campaign to keep the wooden bridge.

Garry Gillard | New: 27 June, 2020 | Now: 28 October, 2020