The West-Link Toll Bridge was conceived and constructed as a convenience for the motorist and commercial road user, as an aid to economic activity in Dublin and beyond, and a profitable enterprise for National Toll Roads.
It opened in 1990 as part of the Western Parkway, a stretch of motorway just over 12 kilometres long between Tallaght and Blanchardstown. It forms part of a 3.2 kilometre tolled section and was Ireland’s first tolled motorway. Before its construction, provincial bound traffic wove in and out of everyday Dublin city traffic before exiting the city on eleven different national routes.
A work-a-day bridge, the West-Link lacks engaging architectural features, yet could be said to have a certain majesty, albeit a majesty lost in translation as the harried motorist traverses from north to south or vice versa. By necessity and design, bridge users speed across its five span, flat, featureless 385 metres, covering the distance in an average of 38.5 seconds. Though uninspiring in its structure, in size and visual impact it is the most significant bridge to cross the Liffey. The West-Link is in fact two independent bridges, the first carrying northbound traffic and the second (built in 2003) carrying southbound and each comprising three lanes. Little thought is given to the underside of this industrial behemoth of reinforced concrete, yet that is where the beauty lies. The bridge straddles the Liffey Valley, less than ten kilometres west of the city centre, high above the fertile Strawberry Beds, reaching a maximum elevation of 42 metres. During the design process, a topographical model of the Liffey Valley was made and used to examine the effects of a bridge, and the possibility of a second, on the area. Later, scale models, some as large as 1/50, were used to examine the aesthetics of the piers and deck in relation to the valley.
Additions to the bridge since construction include the heavy shields on the parapets necessary to prevent bridge closures at times of high winds but rendering invisible a most beautiful sight, a would be feast for many sore eyes. The West-Link is one of only four Liffey bridges inaccessible to pedestrians.
The cost of the West-Link Bridge is reported at £4.5 million with the project as a whole, including land acquisition, costing £27.5 million.