Posts Tagged: bilbao



Vizcaya (“Hanging”) Bridge: Half Gondola, Half Bridge, 100% Awesomeness

Ever wonder what happens when you crossbreed a bridge and a gondola?

Well if infrastructure could reproduce, it’d probably look a lot like the Vizcaya Bridge in Northern Spain.

Vizcaya Bridge

Vizcaya Bridge with suspended gondola in middle. Image by Flickr user Thomas Roland.

Puente Colgante

Vizcaya Bridge. Image by Flickr user Ian Turk.

First designed and constructed in 1893 with the latest 19th century building techniques, this 45m high and 160m long transporter bridge has been ferrying passengers across the Nervión river for 120 years!

While the concept of a shuttle bridge sounds bizarre at first, engineers decided to construct this rather than standard overpass for several logical and practical reasons:

  • help facilitate cross-river transit between summer resorts towns of Portugalete and Getxo without disrupting shipping lanes
  • ability to transport both passenger and cargo
  • reasonable construction costs; and
  • ability to build a bridge without long ramps

The 90 second suspended gondola ride leaves every 8 minutes during the day — or approximately every hour at night. It has the ability to transport 200 persons, 6 cars and 6 motorcycles/bicycles each time it traverses the river.

And perhaps to encourage greater use of the bridge, the Vizcaya is actually fare integrated with Bilbao’s travel card system, Creditrans, while passenger tickets are extremely affordable, at only USD$0.50.

Aside from a few other shuttle bridges — most of which are now unfortunately no longer operational —  the Vizcaya remains the most successful and arguably, the most architecturally stunning example.

As an official recognition of its significance to the region and world, it was declared an UNESCO World Heritage Site back in 2006.

Today, the bridge is a major tourist draw and each day over 300 shuttle trips are made with an estimated four million passengers and half a million vehicles transported each year!


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