Joburg's iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge

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Johannesburg's award-winning Nelson Mandela Bridge presides as a blue-lit sentinel over the inner city, connecting the city's older streets with newer areas. It is an iconic symbol of reconciliation and an architectural and engineering accomplishment.

Paris has its Eiffel Tower; New York its Statue of Liberty; Sydney its Harbour Bridge; and Johannesburg, the iconic Nelson Mandela Bridge.

Of the many buildings, roads, squares and bays named after the first democratically elected president of South Africa, the Nelson Mandela Bridge is the most fitting tribute to this great man. This Johannesburg landmark symbolically links the old and new as it ushers traffic into the heart of rejuvenated downtown Johannesburg, and into Newtown from Braamfontein.

It also symbolises how Mandela bridged the apartheid divide by embracing the oppressor and bringing the nation together.

About the Nelson Mandela Bridge

The bridge, which spans the railway that separates Newtown and Braamfontein, near the city’s central business district, was built in 2003 at a cost of R83-million.

Once constructed, it formed the centrepiece of a R300-million inner city renewal project driven by the province's economic development initiative at the time, Blue IQ.

The bridge was constructed by the South African National Roads Agency Limited with the help of the Johannesburg Development Agency, which managed and oversaw the professional construction, design and engineering teams.

It is 42m high at the north pylon and 27m high at the south pylon. At 295m long, it accommodates two lanes of traffic in either direction, with reserved lanes for pedestrians and cyclists, as it is located in the commuter hub of Johannesburg. Designed by architectural firm Dissing and Weitling, it is the biggest cable-stayed bridge in Southern Africa.

Beneath the bridge there are more than 40 train tracks, which presented an operational and logistical challenge to the engineering team. The team had to construct the bridge across the tracks without disrupting rail traffic.

According to Dissing and Weitling, the bridge location also affected the final design as security was a major consideration. To ensure security for commuters on the bridge, the walkway guardrails have infill panels of toughened glass to expose potential muggers, while the walkways are brightly illuminated by light fittings within the handrails.

Approximately 4000m3 of concrete and 1000 tons of structural steel were used to construct the bridge, with around 500 tons of reinforcing steel cast into the concrete.

The bridge was built together with the M1 Carr Street on and off ramps at a total cost of R120-million.

An award-winning construction achievement

The Nelson Mandela Bridge has garnered industry accolades since its unveiling; these include the:

  • Concrete Society of Southern Africa Fulton Award for Aesthetic Appeal;
  • South African Institute of Civil Engineering Award of the Century in Construction;
  • South African Institute of Civil Engineering Award for Most Outstanding Civil Engineering Project Achievement in Technical Excellence; and
  • The South African Institute of Steel Construction Award for Bridge Design.