It’s notoriously low. “Vertically contested,” according to the fan account on Twitter tracking the fate of trucks, buses and vans who dare to ignore the 26 warning signs (yes, really).
And yet, that’s not enough to deter drivers from plowing the structure every few months, and a few weeks ago, twice in four days.
It was a particularly disastrous week, with a concrete lorry and motorhome crumpled by the South Melbourne icon, with the Twitter account declaring the 108-year-old bridge the “heavyweight champion”. In the same tweet, the concrete churn was also told to “get tough.”
A cement mixer collides with the Montague St Bridge on May 11, 2022.
There are only three meters separating the asphalt from the viaduct to the tramway, making the Montague Street Bridge well below the average, which is two to three meters more forgiving in Victoria.
It’s not just a Twitter account that follows the crashes on the Montague Street Bridge. There is a website (“how many days since montaguestreetbridge was hit.com”) and plenty of videos on YouTube for bettors who want to see a near miss or an epic miss.
In 2016 the Victorian Government announced it would add a second gantry (overhead structure) with rubber paddles to warn drivers that they will not go under the bridge if their vehicle hits the paddles, but alas the bridge does not haven’t gone a full year without being driven.
“He’s fearless. He’s formidable. He’s seen over 100 battles since 2011. He remains undefeated,” Victorian Prime Minister Dan Andrews said in a Facebook post documenting the installation of the gantry.
“Make no mistake: the Montague Street Bridge is pure evil. We were going.
A screenshot from the website ‘How many days since Montague Street was hit?’ Credit: how many days since montague street bridge was hit.com
The average collision-free streak is around 51 days, according to the website. But it’s on track for a tough year with six incidents – the same as last year’s total – already recorded.
Since the website started tracking in February 2016, there have been over 150 incidents.
The Montague Street Bridge’s Long History of Collisions
He’s been there a long time. Since 1914, when it began life as a railway bridge. He’s also been a problem child for around the same time.
Newspaper excerpts from 1916 show that the street was prone to flooding, making it difficult for pedestrians. In 1934, South Melbourne Council decided to raise the street level by around two feet, creating the 3 meter high passage we know today.
In 1987, bridge traffic switched from trains to streetcars, but the prevalence of collisions remained persistent.
A caller to an ABC radio show in 2016 shared that he witnessed a crash in 1929 when he was just seven years old.
One of the most serious encounters with the bridge occurred in 2016 and saw the roof of a 3.6 meter high bus collapse to the fifth row of passenger seats.
A bus collided with the Montague Street Bridge in February 2016, injuring passengers and the driver.
The driver was charged with negligent driving after seriously injuring himself, four women and two men, who suffered injuries including head and spine fractures, broken collarbones and facial lacerations.
The driver’s convictions were later overturned.
After the crash, VicRoads said it would investigate the cost of lowering Montague Street.
But flooding (always a problem) and the big feat of moving other utilities like gas, electric and water saw VicRoads putting it in the basket too hard (and too expensive).
There is also a reluctance to raise the bridge as a busy tram line still crosses it.
“Raise the bridge”, some continue to say on social networks. “Increase the IQ of drivers”, answer some.
It’s a love-hate relationship.
The bridge vs vehicle videos are pretty popular, apparently.
It’s not the only bridge to inspire such fanfare. The Napier Street Bridge in Melbourne, which has a four meter clearance, is also attracting attention and collisions.
In North Carolina in the United States, a bridge that boosted the “11foot8.com” website has been posting crash videos since 2009.
The videos often have over a million views and have documented over 100 crashes – although there are likely to be more.
Jürgen Henn, who worked just outside the bridge for years according to the website, amassed 248,000 subscribers for the content.
Finally, after numerous accidents, the viaduct nicknamed “The Can-Opener” was raised by 8 inches, or 20 centimeters, in 2019. The clearance of the bridge increased from 3.56 meters to 3.76 meters.
But even with the growth spurt, the crashes – and the videos – continue.