Armagh Street bridge back in business!

After eight months of repair work, the Armagh Street bridge has reopened to pedestrians, cyclists, vehicles and Christchurch’s iconic trams this week. 
Over the last week SCIRT’s Downer crew has been doing the final work on the bridge installing the cast iron handrails, which had to be removed and taken offsite for repair and repainting. 
On Monday the bridge reopened to pedestrians and cyclists, and on Tuesday trams started to use the bridge again for the first time since the earthquakes. This morning those driving cars got their turn, when the bridge was reopened to vehicles as well. 
The bridge reopened on schedule. Downer Site Engineer, Tom Harding-Ilott, said the repair work started in March this year and was originally expected to take up to nine months to complete.
Tom says there are still some final touch ups to be done on the bridge, but it will remain open while this work is carried out.     
With the bridge back in business Welcome Aboard, which owns the city’s trams, reopened the full 25 minute tram loop on Tuesday [1]. The trams had been running on a shortened loop since late last year.  
The Armagh Street bridge was built in 1883 and suffered significant damage in the February 2011 earthquake including cracking of the brick underside of the bridge, movement of brick blockwork, damage to the bridge road and footpath surface and fracturing of the cast iron balustrade. 
While repair work [2] was being carried out on the historical Armagh Street bridge, there were all sorts of surprises along the way. A number of old items were found under the bridge [3] including numerous old bricks (dating back to pre-1900), pieces of metal, an old bullet casing, a tiny hand-nailed shoe, rusty horse shoes and old wooden piles from the original wooden bridge built in the 1870s. 
When working on top of the bridge a 20mm thick layer of compacted leather offcuts was found next to a layer of clay material beneath the asphalt surface. This was a bit of a mystery at first, but after receiving information from the public, it is believed that these were used as shock absorbers for the tramlines [4] as they were also found near other tramlines in Christchurch. 
Because of its rich history, the Armagh Street bridge was also featured in a SCIRT walking tour [5] , ‘Uncovering our past, while building for our future’, which was held as part of Beca Heritage Week last month. 
Below: Bridge back in business – the Armagh Street bridge reopened to vehicles this morning. All traffic can now use the bridge again. 


Below: The first tram to cross the Armagh Street bridge, which was reopened to trams yesterday.

Below: The cast iron balustrades have now been reinstalled on the Armagh Street bridge. 


Published: 12 November 2014