If you have vertigo, this, believe me, does not go with you. In Arouca, a small town in northern Portugal, located an hour and a half by car from Porto and two hours from Galicia, they have built a record-breaking infrastructure: a suspension pedestrian bridge 516 meters long which stands 175 m high, a height similar to that of the Sagrada Familia of Barcelona.
His inaugural ribbon it was cut just a few months ago, at the end of April. And although the ceremony coincided in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic, the bridge has already become, on its own merits, one of the great tourist attractions in the Aveiro region. Visitors who dare to stand 175 meters high can enjoy privileged views of the Arouca geopark, recognized by UNESCO, and the Paiva river. With its premiere, Portugal takes the place in the Guinness of Records that until now held the Charles Kuonen Suspension Bridge from Switzerland, another structure not suitable for the heart or people suffering from vertigo that reaches the 494 meters.
Three years of construction and a millionaire investment
To shape the bridge, the Arouca authorities made use of the native talent and they signed the architect Filipe Bandeira, who has devised a hanging structure made up of hexagons. Shaping it on the Paiva River Gorge required three years of work and a global investment that amounts to –according to the data handled by the EFE agency– the 2.3 million euros.
As a culmination of this complex engineering work, its inauguration, on April 29, was celebrated in style and with surprise included, one that made it almost a unique fashion runway: the first to go through the structure were the Portugal Fashion models, who were paraded dressed in garments from the 2021-2022 autumn-winter collection of the Marqués de Almeida brand.
Quite less original is the name they have chosen for the bridge: 516 Arouca, a combination of the length of the infrastructure and the locality through which it runs. As detailed on its official websiteIt is made up of railings and steel cables, with a span of 516 meters, 1.2 m wide and 175 high. As a floor, its creators opted for an open metal grid platform that allows you to enjoy the impressive views of the Paiva riverbed. Its structure, EFE agency details, is formed by 127 modules of approximately four meters. “Each of the boards works as a kind of independent capsule. In this way, the feeling of security and comfort is greater ”, highlight those responsible. on the web 516arouca.
“When the 516 Arouca was conceived, the elements were suspended using sets of only two hangers (secondary cables). Subsequently, analyzing the width of the bridge (1.2 m) it was found that, if the users moved, tending to be on the same side, there would be a considerable inclination of the deck –detail-. Although this inclination was limited and the side protections guaranteed the safety of the users, it could generate panic situations ”.
Faced with this risk and in order to “minimize” the effect and make the experience more pleasant, the engineers installed a new system of hangers that connect the catenary (main cable) to the opposite side of the board. “To prevent these new cables from interfering with the passage of users, they were placed upper arched frames to divert them ”.
World’s longest pedestrian suspension bridge is opening in #Portugal https://t.co/OtFbh6UtB8 via @CNNTravel
516 Arouca, so called because it’s 516 meters long, in the town of Arouca and the latest adventure offering in the Arouca Geopark, known for its extreme sports. #516Arouca pic.twitter.com/P39NY3fvOX
— Visit Portugal (@visitportugal) October 9, 2020
To reinforce the structure, those responsible for the project raised pillars and installed steel cables penetrating the rocky massif and are fixed at the end by means of a cement bulb. The objective: “Withstand the forces exerted on the catenaries (main cables)”.
If you want to taste in your flesh the sensation of walking over the waters of the Paiva River at more or less the height of the Sagrada Familia, all on a hanging steel structure with a span of more than half a kilometer, you have to know that you have to buy the ticket in advance –the adult pass costs 12 euros– and you cannot go with children under six years of age. Of course, there is also capacity. A maximum of 70 people can gather at each visiting time.
If you want more, you can always go as a finishing touch the Paiva Catwalks, another marvel of engineering. This, yes, suitable for people with vertigo.
Images | Luis Ascenso (Flickr)