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Don’t Look Down; Bridge Sets Dizzying Record

Monday, January 9, 2012

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One quarter mile above the Baluarte River in northern Mexico, that nation has opened the tallest cable-stayed bridge in the world—and has the Guinness World Record imprimatur to prove it.

 Baluarte Bridge, Mexico

 Fotografo Especial / Creative Commons

The Eiffel Tower—but not the Empire State Building--could fit under Mexico’s new Baluarte Bridge.

Mexican President Felipe Calderon officially opened the Baluarte Bridge in the Sierra Madre Occidental Mountains on Thursday (Jan. 5), on the heels of the country’s bicentennial celebration of its independence from Spain.

Officials from the Guinness World Records attended the festivities to validate the record engineering feat

‘Devil’s Backbone’

At 1,321 feet high and 3,687 feet long, the Baluarte Bridge is the most—but not the only—dramatic structure along the Durango-Mazatlán highway that will replace the notorious “Devil’s Backbone,” a death-defying, ridge crest road of twists and hair-pin turns that curls across the mountains.

The Durango-Mazatlán expressway will eventually form part of a highway joining the Pacific and Atlantic Coasts and is itself a marvel, with eight bridges more than 300 feet high and 63 tunnels—nearly 10 times more than have ever been built on any road in North America, according to highestbridges.com.

 Graphic of Baluarte Bridge

 Jonathan Hernandez / Creative Commons

A graphic shows the dimensions of the Baluarte Bridge.

The bridge will be the only crossing for more than 500 miles between the Pacific Coast and Mexico’s interior when it opens to traffic later this year. The bridge will slash that journey by about six hours, officials say.

“It is definitely one of the most impressive infrastructure projects,” Calderon said at the opening. “It is a key piece of Mazatlan and Durango—a project that is going to unite the people from the north of Mexico like never before.”

Critics fear that the new span will also facilitate drug trafficking, but the government insists that local communities, trade and tourism will benefit most.

How Tall is It?

The cable-stayed bridge is so tall that the Eiffel Tower would easily fit under its central span.

The Baluarte Bridge bumps France's Millau Viaduct to No. 2 among the world’s highest stayed-cable bridges, according to the BBC. But the Mexican span still comes in 228 feet lower than China’s Si Du River Bridge, the world’s tallest.

 China’s Si Du River Bridge

 Eric Sakowski / Wikimedia Commons

Still No. 1: Soaring 1,549 above the valley of the Si Du River, China’s Si Du River Bridge remains the world’s tallest. The bridge opened in November 2009.

The Baluarte also has the longest span of any cable-stayed bridge in North America, the John James Audubon Bridge in St. Francisville, LA, by 123 feet, according to highestbridges.com, which also features construction photos of the staggering bridge project.

The bridge project consists of 152 steel suspenders supporting over 1,100 meters of 20-meter wide roadway, with a central span of over 520 meters. Its four lanes are held up by two 400-meter towers, which are the primary load-bearing structures in a cable-stayed bridge.

The project was built by a consortium formed by Tradeco, Idinsa and Corey and VSL México.

‘Proud, Prominent Signal’

Mexico has more than nuts and bolts invested in its new marvel, As higherbridges.com notes, the new structure serves as a “signal to its bigger neighbor to the North that Mexico can design and build bridges with the same skill and perfection as the best of them.”

 Mexican President Felipe Calderon carried out the final concrete pour for the bridge

 highestbridges.com

Mexican President Felipe Calderon carried out the final concrete pour for the bridge and spoke at the inauguration ceremony.

“As a stretch of North American pavement without parallel, the Durango-Mazatlán highway will become a proud, prominent symbol of Mexico’s civil engineering skills for decades to come.”

   

Tagged categories: Awards and honors; Bridges; Construction

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