The Merdeka (Malay for ‘independence’) Bridge was a 610-metre-long structure across the Kallang Basin that was part of the Nicoll Highway constructed by the Public Works Department. The three-lane bridge was designed by Superintending Engineer of Major Works R. J. Hollis-Bee and, together with the highway, was meant to provide a main traffic link between the city centre and the East Coast area. Pre-stressed reinforced concrete beams were used in the construction of the $6 million structure, which was built on reclaimed land and billed as the largest pre-stressed bridge of its kind in Asia. The structure was officially named Merdeka Bridge in June 1956 by then Minister for Communications and Works Francis Thomas to reflect the Singapore people’s aspirations for independence from British colonial rule. The bridge was officially opened in August 1956 by then Chief Minister Lim Yew Hock in a grand ceremony. Two stone lions sculpted by the Italian artist Rodolfo Nolli each guarded one end of the bridge. Known as the Merdeka Lions, these sculptures were relocated to the nearby Kallang Park when the bridge was widened in 1966, then to the old Singapore Armed Forces Training Institute Military Institute (SAFTI MI) in 1988, and finally to the new SAFTI MI in 1995. In 2004, a section of the bridge was damaged and had to be removed when part of Nicoll Highway collapsed during the construction of the Mass Rapid Transit line.