Bundaberg’s Kennedy Bridge has been awarded an Engineering Heritage Marker under the Heritage Recognition Program of Engineers Australia.
Kennedy Bridge was assessed against several criteria including historical significance, creative and technical achievement, rarity, integrity and intactness.
Nestled in the heart of Bundaberg, many locals may not realise that by using the Kennedy Bridge, they are driving across an incredible achievement in Australian engineering as it has remained in service for 124 years.
Located on Bargara Road (Bourbong Street), it remains a key part of the transport network of Bundaberg.
Although load limited to 42.5t, the bridge still carries 17,666 vehicles each day to and from the Bundaberg CBD, including about 1300 heavy vehicles to support freight movements and support the agricultural industry particularly sugar.
Engineers Australia is the peak body for the engineering profession in Australia and is committed to preserving Australia's engineering heritage.
The Heritage Recognition Program recognises historical engineering achievements across Australia to raise the profile and understanding of the work of past engineers across the country.
To receive this recognition, the Kennedy Bridge was assessed against several criteria including historical significance, historical individual association, creative and technical achievement, research potential, social, rarity, integrity and intactness.
On 5 September 2023, a brief recognition ceremony was held where Member for Bundaberg Tom Smith unveiled the Engineering Heritage Marker and an interpretation panel outlining the structure’s history.
A Welcome to Country was delivered by the Port Curtis Coral Coast Aboriginal Peoples Charitable Trust.
19th century engineering
The Kennedy Bridge is known for being a prime example of bridge engineering and construction from the late 19th century in Queensland.
At this time, a dialogue between old world sophistication and new world technology was taking place.
It was built to replace the dilapidated timber bridge built on the same site in 1878.
The previous bridge consisted of three timber spans, the centre span having been reinforced with iron rods.
Modelled on the Victoria Bridge in Brisbane, the Kennedy Bridge is now the oldest example of this type of steel bridge design in Queensland since the Victoria Bridge was demolished.
Constructed by John McCormick and Son, the total cost of the bridge’s construction was just under £7000.
During construction, many problems were encountered including the loss of imported steel from Glasgow, Scotland, due to the tragic shipwreck of the Loch Fergus.
The shipwreck occurred off the coast of Belfast, causing delays in the construction of the bridge.
The bridge was formally opened on 26 November 1899 by former Minister for Railways and Works, the Honourable J. Murray, who described the bridge as “one of the finest works of its kind he had seen in Queensland”.
It is symbolic of the development of Bundaberg and the strengthening of its connection to the outside world.
Today, it is a working bridge and remains a key part of the transport network of Bundaberg.
As the present owners of the asset, the Department of Transport and Main Roads (TMR) has maintained the bridge throughout the 20th and early 21st centuries.
Transport and Main Roads Southern Queensland Regional Director Bill Lansbury said the history of the bridge was tied to the engineering history of the country.
“The story of the bridge’s construction, and the difficulties and challenges faced in importing steel, contribute to understanding the significance of constructing a bridge like this at that time in Australia.”
President of Engineers Australia Queensland Committee Joseph Tam said the Heritage Recognition Program aimed to conserve and create awareness around engineering heritage.
“The purpose of the Heritage Recognition Program is to encourage conservation of Australian engineering heritage and to raise community awareness of engineering and the benefits it provides.”
View all the Engineering Heritages sites that are recognised across the country on the Engineering Heritage register.