Victoria Road: History and Development
This section covers the history and development of the Victoria Road section of State Route 40. For more detailed information on the Western Distributor and Anzac Bridge sections please visit their respective pages.
Prior to the establishment of Victoria Road, the preferred route to the Gladesville and Ryde areas was via Parramatta Road, Great North Road and a punt across the Parramatta River between Abbottsford and Bedlam Point. The construction of the original Pyrmont and Glebe Island Bridges in 1857 provided much more convenient access from the Sydney CBD to the Rozelle and Balmain areas and pressure for a more direct road link to the Ryde area via this new bridge began to mount. In the late 1870s action was taken to bridge the two watercourses standing in the way of such a road - Iron Cove and the Parramatta River. Construction commenced in April 1878 on both bridges, however, twelve months later, construction was suspended on the Iron Cove Bridge in order to finish the Gladesville Bridge quicker. In November 1881 the two-lane wrought-iron truss Gladesville Bridge was opened to traffic, followed in November 1882 by the Iron Cove Bridge. Due to the large volumes of traffic using the new route the Pyrmont and Glebe Island Bridges quickly needed replacement and action was taken at the turn of the century to do so. The new Pyrmont Bridge was opened in June 1902, followed by the Glebe Island Bridge in July 1903. Both of these bridges have since been replaced by the Western Distributor and Anzac Bridge respectively.
During the Depression years of the 1920s and 30s a number of projects were undertaken on Victoria Road. The Department of Main Roads set about preserving a right-of-way wide enough for six traffic lanes and thus forced the demolition of a large number of buildings that encroached on the road reserve. This photo shows the changes undertaken along the Gladesville shopping strip around 1938. At Ryde, the DMR widened and realigned Glebe Street to provide a bypass of the CBD and the Department of Railways constructed a four-lane subway to eliminate the West Ryde railway crossing - opened on 24 July 1937.
About 20 years after its opening, tram tracks were installed in Gladesville Bridge for the route to Gladesville (later extended to Ryde). The trams would prove to be an increasing source of congestion as the years passed. At one stage prior to the construction of the new bridge, the Gladesville Bridge was operating in peak periods as a one-way river crossing and traffic had to be halted completely for trams travelling in the opposing direction to cross the bridge safely. Normal traffic opposing the one-way flow in peak times was advised to cross the river via either the Ryde or Harbour Bridges.
Immdiately following WW2 construction commenced on a replacement for the two-lane Iron Cove Bridge (Feb 1946) but due to a shortage of steel, construction was delayed for a number of months. The replacement bridge, still in use today, was opened to traffic on 30 June 1955. The bridge is a four-lane steel truss structure and since its opening, a fifth lane has been constructed as a bailey bridge on the southern side.
The construction of a new Iron Cove Bridge was found to be a rather short-sighted venture when the proposed North Western Freeway was unveiled in 1951 as part of the County of Cumberland Planning Scheme. This freeway would follow closely the line of Victoria Rd between the Gladesville and Glebe Island Bridges. Detailed design commenced quite swiftly on the first section of this freeway which would also double as a replacement to the out-of-date Gladesville and Fig Tree Bridges. Construction on the Gladesville Bridge commenced in December 1959 and the bridge was officially opened on 2 October 1964. In conjunction with the construction of the new bridge, Victoria Road was widened between Gladesville and White Bay to six lanes in 1963, with the widening extending west to Parramatta by 1967, including a four-lane overpass over the Carlingford railway line at Rydalmere.
With Victoria Road now developed to its ultimate stage, improvements were dorment for a number of years. In October 1977 the Wran government announced the cancellation of the proposed F3 - North Western Freeway which would have paralleled Victoria Road from White Bay to the Gladesville Bridge.
Improvements to Victoria Road commenced again in the 1980s, this time in the form of a now common traffic management technique - the 'S' lane. This is where the left lane ends and the other two lanes bend left in an 'S' so that there is room on the three-lane carriageway for a protected right turn lane. The first of these in NSW were introduced to Victoria Road in September 1984.
In 1990 action was taken to relieve congestion at two major intersections - James Ruse Drive, Rydalmere and Devlin St, Ryde - by construction of grade-separated interchanges. The James Ruse Drive overpass was commenced in September 1990 and was opened to traffic in December 1992. The Devlin Street underpass was aslo commenced in 1990 with an original completion date of 1991 but a lack of funding caused construction to slow and finally halt in June 1992, much to the iritation of the local community. Following three years of protests from local businessmen, community identities and those displaced from their homes only to see construction halt before the interchange was built, the RTA recommenced works in March 1995 and opened the underpass to traffic in December 1998. Both these interchanges now provide free-flowing conditions beneath Victoria Road for these important north-south arteries.