FINAL preparations are underway in Cork Harbour ahead of the major engineering task of transporting Cork’s newest bridge up to the city centre and lifting it into position next month.
The Mary Elmes Bridge will be the 31st bridge to cross the river Lee in Cork city.
It will be installed on the north channel of the Lee linking Merchant’s Quay to Patrick’s Quay.
The bridge structure is currently located at Doyle’s Shipping Yard near Cobh, where it is undergoing final preparation work including the installation of lighting, the completion of bridge surfacing along with weld certification and testing.
The structure was fabricated by Thompsons of Carlow in sections before they were transported to Cobh for assembly.
“It was transported from Carlow to Cobh in nine sections via escorted overnight transportation,” said John Stapleton, senior executive engineer in the roads design division.
The operation to transfer the bridge onto a barge and brought up the city centre will take place next month beginning on Monday, May 13.
Two cranes, two tugboats, and a barge will be used in the complex operation.
Preparatory works have been ongoing for some time on the quays and City Hall officials report that the bridge abutments on both sides are now complete.
“The bridge will be lifted onto the barge using the combined lifting power of two cranes (a 500-tonne crane and a 750-tonne crane),” Mr Stapleton said.
“The barge will then be transported upriver with the assistance of two tugboats over the course of the following week.
“The barge and bridge structure will pass under Brian Boru Bridge on Thursday, the 16th, or Friday, the 17th of May.
“The bridge will be lifted from the barge and landed onto the abutments by the same two cranes during the weekend of the 18th and 19th of May.”
Some traffic diversions will have to be put in place during the bridge lift and the contractors plan to install pedestrian railings so that the lift can be safely viewed by the public.
Once installed, the bridge will link Merchant’s Quay to Patrick’s Quay at Harley Street and is expected to cut journey times for 11,000 pedestrians and cyclists daily.
City Hall is expecting large crowds in the area to watch the lift operation.
Similar scenes took place when the Shandon pedestrian bridge was lifted into place in 2004.
The Mary Elmes Bridge is expected to open fully by the end of June. City councillors chose to name the bridge after Cork woman Mary Elmes, known as the Irish Oskar Schindler, who helped save Jewish children from the Nazis during World War II.
The bridge is part of the wider Cork City Centre Movement Strategy that has already seen the removal of private cars from Patrick Street during the afternoons.
The Mary Elmes Bridge will improve pedestrian links between the city’s core and MacCurtain Street and aims to improve the south-facing St Patrick’s Quay.
City Hall officials are set to publish plans this year to make MacCurtain street a two-way street to make it more pedestrian and shopper friendly.