Protecting iconic bridge from the elements

The West Gate Bridge has received its first coat of paint since the late 1970s.

A team of 80 specialists from contractor McElligots took two years to repaint the bridge’s 848-metre steel centre section with more than 55,000 litres of paint, using brushes and spray guns.

The bridge is regularly inspected, and sections are painted, but this is the first time in 40 years the entire steel structure of more than 80,000 square metres was stripped back to bare metal and refreshed with several coats of paint.

The $65 million paint job is an important part of maintaining the bridge and protecting the steel structure from sea water, wind and Melbourne’s notoriously fickle weather.

A shade of grey, anti-corrosive paint was used for most of the bridge, with the bridge props being painted white for contrast.

At 2.5 kilometres, the 10-lane West Gate Bridge is the fifth-longest in Australia and a vital link between the inner city and Melbourne's west, carrying over 205,000 vehicles a day along one of the busiest road corridors in Australia.

The bridge is supported by 27 piers. Its eastern and western approaches are concrete, and centre section is steel. The deck is 37 metres wide. The road is 58 metres above the water. The towers are 40 metres above the road. 

Department of Transport’s Shoukry Marzouk said the paint job was in addition to general maintenance carried out on the bridge at an annual cost of about $20 million.

“Currently we have inspections and repairs being undertaken on both the steel and concrete bridge, lighting upgrades, security upgrades and general strengthening works,” he said.

As the former acting manager of project delivery for the West Gate Bridge, Shoukry said three teams – civil and concrete, steel and electrical – worked on the bridge.

“The civil and concrete team manages the concrete sections of the bridge, security, traffic management and general operation of the structure,” he said.

“The steel team manages the structural integrity of the steel section of the bridge including the hollow steel box girders, bridge bearings, expansion joints, suspension cables and towers. Given its highly complex nature, the steel bridge requires specialist skills to manage and maintain.

“The electrical team look after the security of the bridge, the lighting, the power supply and emergency infrastructure. 

“These are the high-level duties the teams are responsible for, but plenty more effort goes into managing this iconic asset.”