A typical utilitarian piece of twentieth century engineering, the Tom Clarke Bridge (formerly East-Link Toll Bridge), has at least its location to recommend it. Here, though weathered chimneys, spindle like cranes and the industrial architecture of past and present litter the shoreline, the eye is drawn beyond - to where Anna Livia meets her destiny and sea and sky merge on Dublin’s mesmerising, eastern horizon.
The westerly view is a fine one too - of the iconic Samuel Beckett Bridge and the beating heart of the city, its hustle and bustle somewhat remote when experienced from this outpost Liffey bridge. It was opened on October 21st 1984 following a precisely scheduled construction period of 80 weeks. Its design too is of the no nonsense variety - a marriage of economy and functionality - and its remit was just as plain, to offer a much needed major bridge crossing east of the city and to provide a healthy financial return to its private investor proposers and owners.
The bridge comprises four fixed spans, each of 26 metres and a longer opening span of 45 metres. Its single leaf opening structure weighs 500 tonnes and a central microprocessor controls the movement including the synchronisation of traffic lights, road barriers and warning signs. The lifting system itself - twin cylindered hydraulics - is housed in the mid pier. The bridge width is 10 metres and it is supported on steel piles driven between 12 and 14 metres deep through black boulder clay to the Liffey bedrock.
The cost was £6.1 million and toll traffic quickly achieved the projected target of 11,000 vehicles per day. Today traffic between the East Wall Road on the north side and Ringsend on the south has increased further with 14k vehicles crossing per day. Of this bridge, with little merit other than its bald functionality, there is one last pleasing thing to say. It is the perfect place to view one of Dublin’s little sung attributes - the skyscape. Whether an impossibly perfect shade of blue, strung with wisps of cotton soft clouds or ominously darkened by a brooding Mother Nature - it is a study in the beauty of infinite celestial possibilities.