Benjamin Sheares Bridge

The Benjamin Sheares Bridge is a 1.8-kilometre-long stretch of highway that forms part of the East Coast Parkway, linking the Keppel Road/Shenton Way junction to Marina Centre. Named in honour of the second president of Singapore Benjamin Sheares, the bridge spans the Kallang Basin and the Singapore River.1 The S$109.8-million bridge opened on 26 September 1981, and is the longest and highest elevated bridge built by the Public Works Department (PWD; now known as CPG Corporation Pte Ltd).2 On 29 December 2013, the bridge was downgraded from an expressway to an arterial road with the opening of the Marina Coastal Expressway (MCE).3

Background
The Benjamin Sheares Bridge forms part of the final stretch of the ECP.4 The bridge was part of phase four of the construction of the ECP, which was built over reclaimed land. The bridge was conceived as an efficient high-capacity bypass to the central area, with interchanges to connect to existing roads and expressways.5 It was also planned to be an alternative route into the city centre to reduce peak hour congestion on Newton, Scotts, Paterson and Outram roads.6


The bridge has eight lanes and a pair of two-metre-wide footpath for pedestrians.7

In early media reports, before its opening in 1981, the bridge was referred to as a viaduct.8

Design and construction
Construction of the bridge began in August 1978.9 The construction work was undertaken by Japanese firm Sato Kogyo, the PWD and two local firms – Toh Seng Pit Construction, and Chan Chee Wah Maunsell and Partners.10 The bridge was designed to contrast with the skyline of the City Hall shoreline, and offers a panoramic view of the city.11


As the bridge was elevated over the Kallang and Singapore rivers, it was gradually raised from Tanjong Rhu by columns, piers and trestles,12 and built using reinforced concrete.13 The bridge is at its highest over the Kallang Basin, at 29 m.14 The height enables larger ships to pass under the bridge.15 Tapered “H”-shaped trestles that support the concrete bridge were also specially designed to facilitate the passage of ships without obstruction by the columns.16

A total of 46,000 cu m of concrete, 8,400 t of reinforcement bars, 22,000 t of asphalt premix, 882 “H”-section piles and 220 750-millimetre pipe piles were used for the section of the ECP – which includes part of the bridge – from Tanjong Rhu to Beach Road.17

Opening
The viaduct was opened on 26 September 1981 and named Benjamin Sheares Bridge after the second president of Singapore.18 The opening was officiated by then Minister for the Environment Ong Pang Boon, and marked the completion of the 19-kilometre ECP.19 The opening of the bridge was timed to coincide with the opening of Singapore Changi Airport.20

When the bridge was first opened, many people were attracted by the scenic view of the Singapore skyline from the bridge. In the days after the opening, many motorists stopped their vehicles on the highway to take photographs or to sightsee, despite warnings and summonses issued by the traffic police.21 Many newly-weds also have had their pictures taken on the bridge.22

Commemoration
The Benjamin Sheares Bridge has been commemorated in both stamps and currency. In 1982, the Singapore Mint issued S$5 coins in sterling silver and cupro-nickel to mark the opening of the bridge.23 In 1985, the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, along with Elgin, Coleman and Cavenagh bridges, was featured in a series of stamps issued by Singapore Telecoms (now known as Singtel) showcasing Singapore’s bridges.24 In 1987, the Benjamin Sheares Bridge was featured on the reverse side of the S$50 Singapore banknote in the ship currency series.25


The bridge also inspired local musician Sim Boon Yew, who composed an orchestral piece titled “The Magnificent Bridge” in 1983. Sim was at the time a senior member of the People’s Association (PA) Orchestra and a leader of the PA Youth Orchestra. His 10-minute composition, which made its debut in April 1983 at the third Festival of Chinese Instrumental Music, featured Chinese instruments such as the erhu, pipa and zheng. The piece was performed by the Keat Hong Community Centre Orchestra. It was also performed at the PA’s Chinese Orchestra Concert at the end of that year. 26

Incidents
There were two reported instances of fatal accidents on the Benjamin Sheares Bridge, both involving motorcycles. The first took place on 29 June 1995 when 17-year-old Ong Chee Heng crashed his motorcycle into a railing near the Rochor Road slip road. He fell 27 m to his death.27


The second fatal accident happened on 9 August 1997 when 23-year-old Too Yin Seng rammed his motorcycle into a barrier, again near the Rochor Road exit. Too also fell to his death.28

On 10 January 2008, a woman in her 50s was found sitting on the railing along the side of the bridge. The police, Singapore Civil Defence Force and Singapore Police Coast Guard were activated and they tried to convince the woman to step away from the railing. The police closed off a lane on the bridge, cordoned off several hundred metres of footpath along the bridge, and had boats on standby. The woman eventually stepped down from the railing after a two-hour standoff that had caused a massive traffic jam, and was arrested for attempted suicide.29

Events
Since its completion, the Benjamin Sheares Bridge has been part of several major sporting events in Singapore.One of the first events in which the bridge was featured was a midnight marathon held on 30 January 1982. The run was organised by jogging club Singapore Hash House Harriers together with fitness clubs MacRitchie 25 and Clark Hatch Health and Fitness Club. The route began at Changi Airport, proceeded along the ECP, and continued up the Benjamin Sheares Bridge to Shenton Way and back.30


On 21 June 1992, the Sheares Bridge Run, Singapore’s first-ever bridge run organised by the Singapore Armed Forces Reservists’ Association (SAFRA), was held. The event was inspired by international bridge runs held in cities such as San Francisco and New York in the United States. Participants in both the 10-kilometre competitive run and six-kilometre walk-a-jog started at Raffles Avenue, before making their way through Shenton Way onto the Benjamin Sheares Bridge. The finish point was Raffles Avenue. Runners in the 10-kilometre race had to make an additional four-kilometre detour around Marina City Park.31 The inner lane of the bridge was closed for the run, which attracted more than 14,000 participants.32 The Sheares Bridge Run is currently known as the SAFRA Singapore Bay Run and Half Army Marathon.33

In 2008, the Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore overhauled its 10-kilometre route event to include the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.34 The following year, the OCBC Cycle Singapore also revamped its route to take cyclists up the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.35 Both events are held annually.36

The 2014 edition of The New Paper Big Walk was held along the Benjamin Sheares Bridge for the first time in the history of the event.37 About 18,000 people participated, with many commenting that the best part of the walk was the view from the bridge.38 That year, the route of the 7th Sundown Marathon was also changed to include the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.39

Latest development
On 29 December 2013, the Benjamin Sheares Bridge was downgraded from an expressway to an arterial road due to the opening of the MCE.40 There was much speculation that the bridge would be demolished with the realignment of roads, but the Land Transport Authority assured the public that the bridge would not be affected.41 Although the MCE provides a faster and smoother ride into the city centre, many motorists miss the spectacular view afforded by the Benjamin Sheares Bridge.42




Author

Jaime Koh



References
1. “Shutterbugs Flock to Sheares Bridge,” Straits Times, 28 September 1981, 8; “Last Part of East Coast Parkway to Open,” Straits Times, 25 September 1981, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
2. “$162M Viaduct to East Flow of Traffic,” Straits Times, 23 September 1978, 15 (From NewspaperSG); “Shutterbugs Flock to Sheares Bridge”; “Last Part of East Coast Parkway to Open.”
3. “Marina Coastal Expressway Opens,” Today, 29 December 2013. (From Factiva via NLB’s eResources website)
4. “Last Part of East Coast Parkway to Open”; “Shutterbugs Flock to Sheares Bridge.”
5. “Parkway: Phase 4 Work to Begin Soon,” Straits Times, 27 October 1976, 11 (From NewspaperSG); “$162M Viaduct to East Flow of Traffic.”
6. Christina Rodrigues, “Viaduct Wil Open Up Alternative Route to City,” Straits Times, 24 October 1978, 7 (From NewspaperSG); “Parkway: Phase 4 Work to Begin Soon.”
7. “New Expressway Will Serve Long-Term Needs,” Straits Times, 18 April 1981, 7. (From NewspaperSG)
8. “New Expressway Will Serve Long-Term Needs”; “Panoramic City View for Motorists,” Straits Times, 3 November 1979, 17. (From NewspaperSG)
9. Rodrigues, “Viaduct Wil Open Up Alternative Route to City.”
10. S. M. Muthu, “Spectacular View of Kallang Basin in 4 Years,” Straits Times, 7 November 1976, 8. (From NewspaperSG)
11. Rodrigues, “Viaduct Wil Open Up Alternative Route to City.”
12. “$162M Viaduct to East Flow of Traffic.”
13. “Changing Face of S’pore Bridges,” Straits Times, 21 August 2008, 34. (From NewspaperSG)
14. “Panoramic City View for Motorists.”
15. “New Expressway Will Serve Long-Term Needs.”
16. “New Expressway Will Serve Long-Term Needs.”
17. “New Expressway Will Serve Long-Term Needs.”
18. “Shutterbugs Flock to Sheares Bridge”; “Last Part of East Coast Parkway to Open.” 
19. “Last Section of ECP Opens Today,” Straits Times, 26 September 1981, 49; “An Added Attraction to the Waterfront,” Straits Times, 26 September 1981, 53. (From NewspaperSG)
20. Public Works Department Singapore, The Road Ahead: Land Transportation in SingaporeA PWD Report (Singapore: Public Works Department, 1992), 4 (Call no. RSING 388.4095957 SIN); “Shutterbugs Flock to Sheares Bridge”; “Last Part of East Coast Parkway to Open.” 
21. “Shutterbugs Flock to Sheares Bridge”; “Another Motorist Booked for Parking On Viaduct,” Straits Times, 30 April 1981, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
22. “Shoot and Scoot at the Bridge,” Straits Times, 14 December 1981, 12. (From NewspaperSG)
23. “S’pore Mint to Issue Sheares Bridge Coins,” Business Times, 16 July 1982, 3; “$5 Coins to Mark Opening of Bridge,” Straits Times, 16 July 1982, 11. (From NewspaperSG)
24. “New Set ofStamps to Feature Four Bridges,” Singapore Monitor, 22 January 1985, 4. (From NewspaperSG)
25. “Notes Fact: Ship Series,” Monetary Authority of Singapore, 2013.
26. Chong Wing Hong, “An Expressway Expressed,” Straits Times, 1 December 1983, 1. (From NewspaperSG)
27. Alethea Lim, “Crash, Plunge,” New Paper, 11 August, 1997, 10. (From NewspaperSG)
28. Lim, “Crash, Plunge.”
29. Ansley Ng, “Bridge Drama,” Today, 11 January 2008, 14; Celine Lim, Come Down, Come Down,” New Paper, 11 January 2008, 16. (From NewspaperSG)
30. “Republic’s First Midnight Marathon,” Straits Times, 29 January 1982, 39. (From NewspaperSG)
31. “10,000 Expected to Take Part in S’pore’s First-Ever Bridge Run,” Straits Times, 17 May 1992, 14. (From NewspaperSG)
32. “Dash with a View,” Straits Times, 22 June 1992, 2. (From NewspaperSG)
33. “Marathon to Span Sheares Bridge,” Straits Times, 30 June 2000, 56; “Sheares Bridge Run Draws 60,000,” Straits Times, 13 September 2005, 5; “Safra Run Takes in Barrage Route.” Straits Times, 25 August 2008, 25. (From NewspaperSG)
34. Jeanette Wang, “Record 48,000 for S’pore Marathon,” Straits Times, 22 July 2008, 33. (From NewspaperSG)
35. Jeanette Wang, “Revamped Race Route,” Straits Times, 15 October 2009, 40. (From NewspaperSG)
36. “About Us,” Standard Chartered Marathon Singapore, 2014; OCBC Bank, “OCBC Cycle 2015 set for 29–30 August 2015: Finishing Line to Be in Iconic National Stadium,” press release, 28 October 2014.
37. Lakeisha Leo, “Your Guide to the Big Walk,” New Paper, 29 November 2014, 14–15; Lakeisha Leo, “Sheer Fun on Sheares Bridge,” New Paper, 6–7. (From NewspaperSG)
38. Choo Mei Fang, “Sun, Sheares Bridge & Selfies at TNP Big Walk 2014,” New Paper, 1 December 2014. (From NewspaperSG)
39. “30,000 Take Part in 7th Sundown Marathon,” AsiaOne, 1 June 2014.
40. “Marina Coastal Expressway Opens.”
41. Land Transport Authority, “Marina Coastal Expressway,” fact sheet, 28 December 2013.
42. Lee Jian Xuan and Jermyn Chow, “Motorists Cheer Prospect of Faster Ride on New Expressway,” Straits Times, 15 November 2013, 8. (From NewspaperSG)



The information in this article is valid as at 25 February 2015 and correct as far as we are able to ascertain from our sources. It is not intended to be an exhaustive or complete history of the subject. Please contact the Library for further reading materials on the topic.


 

Subject
Express highways--Singapore
Transportation
Transportation--History--Singapore
Architecture
Bridges--Singapore
Streets and Places

All Rights Reserved. National Library Board Singapore 2015