The need for a bridge connecting the Redcliffe Peninsula with Brighton across Hays Inlet was apparent for many years, as residents and visitors endured the long and arduous road journey to Brisbane via Petrie. A bridge would bring Redcliffe much closer to Brisbane and facilitate its development in the twentieth century.
Entrepreneur Manuel Hornibrook realised this need and for several years campaigned for a bridge to be built. In 1931 he was granted an Order in Council by the Queensland Government to proceed with the bridge, but the financial constraints of the Depression era and the engineering challenges posed by such a large bridge delayed the start of construction.
Once Hornibrook had raised enough money to fund the project, one of the main problems facing the bridge construction was finding a supply of timber. The bridge required over two and a half million super feet of wood, and Hornibrook had to employ hundreds of timber-getters and sawmill workers to provide enough wood. The timber was brought to the bridge construction site by barges travelling down the Pine River.
When the Hornibrook Highway opened on 4 October 1935, it spanned 2.7 kilometres of water between Clontarf and Brighton and was the longest bridge in the southern hemisphere. The concrete portals at each end were used by toll collectors who charged one shilling for cars and trucks, sixpence for motorcycles, and threepence for pedestrians and bicycles.
The new bridge also led to improved public transport to the Peninsula. The Hornibrook Highway Bus Service began services linking Redcliffe with Sandgate Railway Station, where passengers could transfer to the train for Brisbane. These buses served both commuters who worked in Brisbane and day-trippers who enjoyed the scenic drive along Moreton Bay. However, the opening of the bridge also led to the demise of the once-popular excursion boats which had, for many years, carried the tourists who now came to Redcliffe by bus.
In the years following the end of World War II, Redcliffe’s population grew, and so did the need for infrastructure. The Hornibrook Highway was beginning to feel the strain from the volume of traffic which crossed daily, and proposals for a second bridge were put forward. The design for what would become the Houghton Highway was agreed upon in 1974, and the new bridge was built between 1977 and 1979.
The Houghton Highway was built 1.61 metres higher than the Hornibrook Highway to avoid splashing waves during storms, and it also had a breakdown lane and footpath. It was built from concrete to improve durability, and unusually it did not have a bitumen surface which meant that drivers had a bumpy ride across the concrete. At 2.74 kilometres the new bridge was slightly longer than the Hornibrook Highway, and it was named after The Honourable James Houghton, former Member for Redcliffe and Speaker for the Queensland Legislative Assembly.
The original plan was for the two bridges to be used together. However, when the Hornibrook Highway was inspected it was found to be in such poor condition that it would be too costly to repair. It became a dedicated pedestrian and cycle bridge.
The Houghton Highway then took over all road traffic. Its design was changed to accommodate the ever-increasing flow, with the footpath and breakdown lane converted into a third traffic lane. Overhead gantries were installed to facilitate the tidal flow system, in which southbound traffic used two lanes in the morning peak and northbound traffic had two lanes in the afternoon peak. Despite these changes, motorists continued to complain about the condition of the bridge and the problems caused by breakdowns or accidents. In 2005, the Queensland Government announced plans to duplicate the bridge.
The third bridge connecting the Redcliffe Peninsula to Brighton was designed to utilise modern technology not available in 1935 or 1979 when the first two bridges were built. Named for Ted Smout, Queensland’s last surviving World War I veteran and a long-time resident of Sandgate, the bridge is located thirty-five metres east of the Houghton Highway and sits 3.8 metres above the water. It is designed to withstand cyclonic conditions, which is particularly important given its locations over a coastal waterway vulnerable to storm surges. The Ted Smout Memorial Bridge was officially opened on 11 July 2010 and it now carries southbound traffic across to Brighton.
The Houghton Highway continues to carry northbound traffic and now has a bitumen surface, which has eliminated the bumpiness of the original concrete surface.
With the Ted Smout Memorial Bridge boasting a combined pedestrian/cycle path and a dedicated fishing platform, the decision was made to demolish the Hornibrook Highway. Its condition had deteriorated to the point that it was no longer safe to be used as a footbridge. All that remains of the bridge are the pylons at the Clontarf and Brighton ends, which are used for fishing.