Two massive purpose-built hammers from Singapore and the United Kingdom are being used over the next few months to ram into place the piles for Australia’s first tsunami-proof bridge.

The $315 million Houghton Highway bridge duplication project will double traffic capacity between the Redcliffe Peninsula and Sandgate in Brisbane, and also provide a safer all-weather access for commuters.

The two hammers weighing 20 and 25 tonnes will drive 154 piles up to 39 metres into the sea bed. The piles will provide support for 78 bridge spans each measuring more than 35 metres.

A large platform off the Brighton foreshore will be used to access the worksite over water. As each span of the new bridge is completed, the platform will move forward to enable a new segment to commence.

Queensland Main Roads Minister, Warren Pitt, says the new bridge has been designed to incorporate lessons learned from the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina. The hurricane battered the US States of Louisiana and Mississippi in 2005, and more than 1830 people lost their lives as a result of the wild weather and subsequent flooding.

“It (the bridge) has been designed to withstand a one-in-200 year storm event and will be the first of its type in Australia, and among the first in the world,” Mr Pitt says. “Commuters and recreational users alike need a structure that will meet their needs now and into the future, and I am confident this bridge will deliver.”

The Houghton Highway bridge duplication project involves upgrading the existing bridge and approach intersections, constructing pedestrian/cycle underpasses at both ends of the bridge and restoring a section of the historic Hornibrook Bridge and its portals. The project is expected to be completed by mid-2011.

The 20 tonne hammer from Singapore has been named Thor while the 25 tonne UK pile driver had not been christened at the time of writing.

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