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Nelson Mandela Bridge - Johannesburg

The Nelson Mandela Bridge in Johannesburg was completed in 2003 with a R38 million price tag. The proposal for the bridge was to link up two main business areas of Braamfontein and Newtown as well as to rejuvenate and to a certain level modernize the inner city, which is an initiative by a company, Blue IQ. The bridge was constructed over 42 railway lines without disturbing railway traffic and is 284 metres long. The Nelson Mandela Bridge, starts virtually at the end of Jan Smuts Avenue and links the Constitutional Hill precinct in Braamfontein to the Cultural precinct in Newtown, in the heart of the city’s inner city renewal project.

There are two pylons, North and South, and are 42 and 27 metres respectively. Engineers tried to keep the bridge as light as possible and used a structural steel with a concrete composite deck to keep weight down. Heavier banks along the bridge were reinforced by heavier back spans. The bridge consists of two lanes and has pedestrian walk-ways on either side. The bridge can be viewed from one of Johannesburg’s most popular roads, the M1 highway.

In June 2010 the bridge's lighting was upgraded by Philips for the 2010 FIFA World Cup. The new LED lighting technology alternates between the colour spectrum, creating a light show at night. Due to copper wiring being stolen from the bridge, tighter security measures have been put in place, including full 24-hour video surveillance of the bridge.

A bridge linking Braamfontein to the Johannesburg city centre was first mooted by Steve Thorne and Gordon Gibson, urban designers, in 1993 in their urban design study of the Inner City of Johannesburg. In their study they named the bridge the Nelson Mandela bridge in recognition of the role Nelson Mandela was having in uniting South African society, and the symbolism of linkage and unity provided by the bridge.

Visually the bridge is incredibly appealing in its simplicity. Four tubular steel, concrete filled pylons are a central feature and key to the engineering of the bridge. The bridge is also supported on the largest pot bearings ever installed in the country, designed to cope with any stresses to the bridge - no surprise that the Nelson Mandela Bridge was judged ‘the most outstanding civil engineering project achievement in the technical excellence category’ in 2003 by the SA Institute of Civil Engineers. At night the bridge is a magical beacon that lights the sky, its imposing span dominating the horizon in amongst the city skyscrapers and viewed from the M1 highway by countless South Africans and visitors alike.


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