Longest Pedestrian Bridge Opens
The Institute for Research and Technological Development for Construction, Energy, Environment and Sustainability has recently completed a pedestrian suspension bridge in Portugal, breaking the record for the world’s longest.
Nearly a third of a mile long, the record-breaking suspension bridge connects two hills with granite cliff faces in Arouca Geopark, located in Arouca, Portugal. In total, the structure—also known as 516 Arouca for its 516 meters in length—measures an equivalent of 1,693 feet long and hangs 570 feet high over the Paiva river.
“A remarkable work of national engineering and will certainly be one of the most iconic structures in the municipality of Arouca and in the country and that will surely become a landmark of modernity,” said Arouca's mayor Margarida Belém.
Meant to serve as a tourist attraction in the area, the structure sits nearby the Paiva Walkways, an 8-kilometer-long trail that winds through the Arouca hills.
“Going through it will certainly be a remarkable and memorable experience,” Belém continued. “For those who have already done the Walkways, the bridge will be an excellent reason to return. Those who have not yet had the opportunity to travel, now have an additional reason to do so.”
In addition to the walkways, however, the area is well-known for its white-water rafting, geological characteristics and historical sites such as the Neolithic graves and Roman and medieval ruins. The area is also home to the Monastery of Arouca, which served as a religious center for nuns, and sometimes monks, between the 10th and 19th centuries.
According to a release on the bridge’s website, the structure had been under construction since May 2018 and was inspired by the Inca bridges that spanned the Andes mountain valleys. The mostly metal structure is supported by two V-shaped concrete towers and is comprised of 127 interlocking metal-gridded decks and metal grid side railings, giving crossers an unobstructed view of the mountains and river gorge.
Last year, the municipality of Arouca described the bridge as “frighteningly beautiful.”
Built with a price tag of $2.8 million, the bridge was designed by Portuguese studio Itecons and constructed by a company called Conduril in a process that spanned several years. Funding for the structure was co-financed by the PROVERE program, from the European Regional Development Fund North 2020.
Before the structure opened to the public, few lucky—and brave—locals were invited to cross the structure first. Among them, and the first to cross, Hugo Xavier, reported the crossing as being “extraordinary, a unique experience, an adrenaline rush.” Adding that he was slightly afraid, but that the trip was worth it.
The 516 Arouca officially opened to the public at the end of April.
The bridge officially beats out Switzerland's 1,621-foot-long Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge as the world's longest pedestrian suspension bridge. In contrast, the longest such structure in the U.S. is the Gatlinburg SkyBridge in Tennessee, which stretches a more modest 680 feet across a valley in the Great Smoky Mountains and has a transparent glass floor at its highest point.