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New Alps Bridge Sets Dizzying Record

Monday, December 17, 2012

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Everyone is afraid of something. But just how many phobias can Europe's record-setting new bridge inspire?

There's acrophobia, aeroacrophobia, alpineophobia, altophobia, anemophobia, cheimatophobia, cryophobia, gephyrophobia, illyngophobia...

Hold on tight, and don't look down. The Titlis Cliff Walk in Switzerland, Europe's highest suspension bridge, sways (literally—wind gusts can reach 125 mph) 10,000 feet above sea level and more than 1,500 feet above a glacier in the Swiss Alps.

If that's not enough to make your stomach start knotting up, the 328-foot-long bridge is just a shade over three feet wide.

Photos: Titlis Engelberg

The Titlis Cliff Walk was scheduled to open to the public on Saturday (Dec. 15). Europe's highest suspension bridge soars more than 1,500 feet over a glacier in the Swiss Alps.

'High-Adrenaline' Adventure

Dignitaries from 15 countries attended the grand opening Dec. 7, braving a snow storm and whiteout conditions, said Peter Reinle, a spokesman for the Titlis Engelberg ski resort. With visibility reduced to only a few feet, the first visitors couldn't see anything beneath them.

"The weather was terrible, but it was a big adventure," Reinle told NBC News.

"It is 100 percent safe. ... It's really impossible to fall from the bridge," he added.

The bridge was scheduled to open to the public Saturday (Dec. 15), but officials are planning for its popularity to peak in the summer months.

Dignitaries from 15 countries got a sneak peek on Dec. 7. During the visit, whiteout conditions limited visibility to only a few feet.

"It's going to be really big next summer as a high-adrenaline kind of new adventure in Switzerland," Ursula Beamish, a spokeswoman for Switzerland Tourism, told one travel writer.

Making it Happen

The bridge celebrates the 100th anniversary of the Engelberg-Gerschnialp cableway over Mt. Titlis in central Switzerland. The cableway was built in January 1913 to join the two towns of Engelberg and Gerschnialp.

Not surprisingly, construction of the Cliff Walk was challenging; in addition to the scale of the project, engineers had to work around the weather conditions.

Titlis Rotair, a Swiss cable car company that specializes in mountain construction, started the work in July, The company used cable cars to transport 90 percent of the materials needed for the $1.6 million project. Bigger pieces, including concrete, were brought in by helicopter, according to Reinle.

The bridge is 100 percent safe, said the Titlis Engelberg ski resort.

"The bridge is built for the next 1,000 years. It has to carry all the snow and the ice—that was the biggest challenge," Reinle told NBC News. "So you can put around 500 tons of snow on the bridge."

The bridge will be open whenever the Mount Titlis cable car is open, and the cost of crossing will be included in a round trip ticket up the mountain, although organizers warn that it may have to close in the event of bad weather.

But is it the world's scariest bridge? Check out these spine-chilling structures and decide for yourself.

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Concrete; Construction; Design; Engineers

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