By Andrew Bushe
DUBLIN – The landmark Ha’penny bridge across the River Liffey, reopened on Friday after a _2 million, nine-month long facelift.
City Manager John Fitzgerald said the Ha’penny bridge was recognized as an icon of Dublin around the world and its reopening marked another stage in the upgrading of the Liffey and building more bridges to link the two halves of the city.
“It is all part of the process of turning the river into a uniting, binding force in the city instead of what it was in the past, a divider,” he said.
The 185-year-old curved silhouette of the bridge is featured on books, postcards and television documentaries as an emblem of the city.
As a unique engineering artifact of the industrial revolution, it is a protected structure.
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It connects the so-called cultural quarter of Temple Bar on the south of the river to the Henry Street shopping area on the Northside.
It was originally built to take about 450 people crossing every day but the number using now averages about 30,000 a day or 4,000 an hour at peak periods.
The refurbishment followed safety concerns as the metal structure was suffering from serious corrosion problems and didn’t meet modern safety requirements.
“The bridge was literally taken apart bit by bit, inspected and then rebuilt. We are ending up with a modern bridge that is safe for the public. We have only replaced about 10 percent of the original,” city engineer Michael Philips said.
Officially named the Liffey Bridge, its commonly used name comes from the half-penny toll that used to be charged for pedestrians to cross it.
There originally were stone toll booths at either side. They were removed in the late 1800s and turnstiles went in in 1919 before the toll was done away with.
Dublin Corporation has no plans to rename it in the new era of the euro.
“Somehow the 0.00635 cents bridge doesn’t have the same ring to it,” an official said.