Welcome to European Tribune. It's gone a bit quiet around here these days, but it's still going.

Saturday Bridge Blogging - Viaducto 1 - Why bridges matter

by Jerome a Paris Sat Jan 28th, 2006 at 08:11:28 AM EST

This week's bridge blogging is interestingly situated at the interesection of engineering and politics.

Viaducto n°1, located in Venezuela on the highway between Caracas and its port and airport (see map below) deserves a post on its technical merits, as it was the first bridge on the planet built using precast prestressed concrete - and it was designed by the grand master of concrete, Eugène Freyssinet, with Jean Muller (both French engineers).

But the story today about that bridge is that it has been closed for fear that it might collapse, creating havoc in Caracas as it has cut off the city from both its airport and its port. With the World Social Forum taking in place in Caracas this week, the spotlight shines embarrassingly on this bridge.


Caracas is located a few kilometers away from the coast, on the other side of a pretty high mountain range. The highway from the city to the coast, where both the port and the airport are located, is vital for the city, as most imports (massive in a country that exports mostly oil) come on it.

(from this site)

Viaducto n°1 is located above a narrow gorge (now suspected to be a geological fault)

(from this site)

Whether because of geological movements, water infiltrations, or the consequences (on water or rock movement) or the uncontrolled construction of shantytowns around it, the bridge has begun to bend in the 80s. Muller suggested to replace it if the bend went over 50cm; it was 115cm early this year when a pile finally collapsed and the bridge finally closed.

As Le Monde reports, this closure could cost Venezuela as much as 1% of GDP growth this year, as trucks have the use the old mountain road (that now goes across shantytowns all the way), delays mount and prices go up. The half hour trip from the city to the airport takes 5 to 7 hours instead of the usual half-hour, and creates serious dirturbance of trade and life in the city.

It is a sad tale of procrastination and corruption in a country that has often been flush with oil money and has just as often wasted it. A contract to replace the bridge was signed in the 90s, and then cancelled (at high cost) for unclear reasons, and nothing has happened since then. Chavez is to blame for doing nothing in his 7 years in power, but his predecessors did little either. But infrastructure investment often appears as a waste of money, or at least as not obviously necessary spending in the short term, and gets postponed for the sake of political expediency.

This is a striking example, and one that the World Social Forum might want to ponder. Infrastructure investment is essential, and the main danger is not greedy companies or markets, it's bad governments.

Previous Bridge Blogging (by PeWi, unless indicated otherwise):
Thomas Viaduct (by Jerome a Paris (Dec. 28)
Calatrava's Twisted Mind (by DoDo (Dec. 1)
wobbly(Nov. 3)
parallel lines(Oct. 27)
Galloping Gertie(Oct. 19)
animal bridges(Oct. 13)
Remagen(Oct. 6)
transporter bridge in Middlesbrough (Sept. 29)
Lyonel Feininger edition(Sept. 22)
Activities on Brooklyn Bridge (Sept 15th)
Bridge of Alcántara (Sept 8th)
Tyne Swing Bridge(Sept 1st)
Muengstener Bruecke (Aug 25th)
Mostar Bridge (Aug 18th)

Display:
http://www.aisc.org/Content/ContentGroups/Documents/NSBA5/20_NSBA_LongestSpans.PDF

Self explicit link

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes

by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 06:38:56 AM EST
Thanks, for putting this up. (-:
by PeWi on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 07:10:26 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Thanks for this, Jerome.  It's really interesting.

This...

But infrastructure investment often appears as a waste of money, or at least as not obviously necessary spending in the short term, and gets postponed for the sake of political expediency.

This is a striking example, and one that the World Social Forum might want to ponder. Infrastructure investment is essential, and the main danger is not greedy companies or markets, it's bad governments.


... rings very true.

An Egyptian friend was just complaining about that the other day, regarding Cairo's crumbling infrastructure.

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 12:05:19 PM EST
This isn't on the topic, but I saw this photo yesterday and had saved it for the next bridge blogging, just because I thought it was a cool picture.  It's a bridge in Milan:

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 02:14:11 PM EST
This is what happened to one of our floating bridges.  We're procrastinating on fixing the other one, as well as the Alaskan Way Viaduct.  Although now that it's damaged from an earthquake, we have plans to replace it.

Image Hosted by ImageShack.us

Maybe we can eventually make language a complete impediment to understanding. -Hobbes

by Izzy (izzy at eurotrib dot com) on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 02:31:07 PM EST
Well, at least there was subway construction, and a long-planned and often aborted rail link from Caracas to the South is about to be finished under Chávez (older English link for the latter). There is a fix plan for a link to the port too, tough I haven't yet read of any contracts signed.

*Lunatic*, n.
One whose delusions are out of fashion.
by DoDo on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 02:31:14 PM EST
Off topic but the mention of French people in South America in the fifties always makes me think of the wonderful nailbiting movie 'Wages of Fear' (Le salaire de la peur) directed by  Clouzot and starring Yves Montand. If you haven't seen it I strongly recommend it.
by MarekNYC on Fri Jan 27th, 2006 at 04:58:42 PM EST
What are we talking about here?  Geological activity, a design flaw, bad materials, or what?  

A well-built arch is robust, and should not be collapsing at all.  

You do say how old the bridge is, but it is clearly not old.  

Say what?  

(Too bad.  It was elegant.)  

The Fates are kind.

by Gaianne on Sat Jan 28th, 2006 at 12:26:47 AM EST
It was built in 1953, so it's not that old. From what I read, it has been a combination of worsening water inflitrations on the banks (as the shantytowns were built around it and changed the volumes and patterns of water on the mountainsides), and possible geological effects as the bridge is over a geological fault whose movements may have been underestimated.

In the long run, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes
by Jerome a Paris (etg@eurotrib.com) on Sat Jan 28th, 2006 at 09:13:28 AM EST
[ Parent ]
This is the Victoria Falls Bridge, connecting Zambia and Zimbabwe over the Zambezi River.

Image hosting by Photobucket

I took the photos from the Zambian side... but unless you've got waterproof camera equipment, which I don't, it's nigh-impossible to photograph from the best viewpoint because it's drenched with spray from the falls.

Image hosting by Photobucket

This bungi-jumping company says:

Designed by Sir Ralph Freeman, the same engineer who designed the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Victoria Falls Bridge is an engineering feat linking Zimbabwe and Zambia. Spanning 152 metres, the bridge was the brainchild of Sir Cecil John Rhodes, who wanted the "spray of the Falls on the train carriages" - even though he never visited the Falls and died before construction of the Bridge began.

Located just below the Falls, and completed in just 14 months, the Bridge made way for modern-day transportation and commerce to reach central Africa.

Constructed from steel, the arch spans 156.50 metres, with a height of 128 metres above the valley floor. Like Sydney, the Bridge carries cars, trains and foot traffic...

by the stormy present (stormypresent aaaaaaat gmail etc) on Sat Jan 28th, 2006 at 08:48:05 AM EST


Display:
Go to: [ European Tribune Homepage : Top of page : Top of comments ]

Top Diaries

Italian government collapse

by IdiotSavant - Jan 15
14 comments

Dutch Government Collapse

by Oui - Jan 16
4 comments

A Rush To Judgement Day

by Oui - Jan 17
1 comment

A Long War?

by Frank Schnittger - Jan 8
77 comments

Israel and A Presidential Election

by Oui - Jan 14
25 comments