by Georgia Mason-Cox
When I was growing up in Hobart, people used to talk about making Bass Strait a national highway. This gave me small shivers of excitement; surely ‘holidays’ on Bruny Island would become a thing of the past if we could easily drive to Sydney? A bridge to the mainland! It was ambitious, I allowed, visionary even. But why not? If the Tasman Bridge was a like prehistoric creature frozen on spindly legs, then the Bass Strait Bridge was a lost relic of Gondwana, biding its time on the sea floor. In my imagination it would slowly emerge, water streaming from its spine as it connected the little island to the big island and corrected Tasmania’s isolation.
Of course, the national highway was only a metaphor. What was being proposed was a virtual bridge, aimed at lowering the cost of transporting people and goods into and out of the state. It wasn’t the world’s most impressive piece of infrastructure they wanted, but a concession from government that distance was synonymous with disadvantage. Sometime embarrassingly late into adolescence, I retired the fantasy of those hundreds of heroic pylons. Still marooned at the bottom of the world, I accepted that the Bruny Island caravan park hadn’t seen the last of us yet.
But once the marvellous dream of the Bass Strait Bridge disappeared, the Tasman Bridge began to look ungenerous. Dully provincial, it spanned the Derwent and led from the modest low-rise CBD to – where? For me, as like so many before: the airport. I moved to Sydney, and then to London. Ten years later, there’s a new bridge being talked about down south. A footbridge linking the Cenotaph to the Domain, designed by a New York architect and performance artist dubbed the ‘Godfather of Transgression’. Well, why not? In the acronym-heavy days of Hobart’s revival, anything’s possible. When I was growing up I wouldn’t have thought it went very far: the Cenotaph to the Domain is hardly Bass Strait, but maybe it’s far enough, and in the background the Tasman Bridge will still be there, its concrete leap no longer thwarted.