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Vinci wins in Panama

French contractor beats off international competition to build bridge over widened Panama Canal.

Vinci Construction Grands Projects of France has won a hard-fought contract to build a bridge across the Panama Canal’s Atlantic entrance with a bid of $366M (£230M), £13M lower than its closest challenger.

The cable-stayed bridge will allow road traffic across the historic waterway after the completion of new locks which are part of the canal’s ongoing £3.2bn expansion project (NCE 11 October).

Vinci’s bid beat offers by two other international consortiums: a £270M bid from Spain’s Acciona Infraestructuras and Tradeco of Mexico and a £243M bid from Brazil’s Odebrecht and Hyundai of Korea.

The bridge, designed by the Berger Group and China Communication Construction Company, will have a 530m central span suspended 75m above sea level by a pair of 207.5m tall concrete towers either side of the waterway.

Double plane cabel stay

Client ACP chose the double-plane, twin pylon, cable-stayed design after examining bridges in Spain, Korea, France, China and Japan.

“The project alignment will pass over the [canal’s] navigation channel and a railway, so its construction process should be developed as to not affect the safety of the maritime and rail traffic,” said project manager, Mario Luis Montemayor de la Guardia.

The largest ships that use the waterway are cruise liners which can be as tall as 72m.

In comparison, the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco has a maximum clearance of 70.5m above the waterline.

When complete, the bridge will be 4.6km long and will carry two lanes of traffic in each direction. It will be able to handle 16,500 vehicles daily.

Eventually the bridge can be expanded to four lanes in either direction and accommodate a maximum of 28,000 vehicles daily.

Currently, the only route across the waterway on the northern side of the isthmus is a two-lane road that passes directly in front of the Gatun Locks.

As a result, the road must be closed every time a ship passes through. Only 1,000 vehicles a day cross the canal but soon the connection will be severed due to the Third Lane Expansion of the Panama Canal.

When canal expansion was approved by public referendum in 2006, the Panamanian government passed a law that required a vehicular crossing to be started by the time the new locks were completed.

The bridge is slated for completion in autumn 2015 - a year and a half after the expected completion of the third lane expansion project.

When the work on the new locks requires severing the existing road a ferry will take vehicles across the waterway.


Italians to build new Bosphorus bridge

Italian contractor Astaldi confirmed this week that it is nearing financial close on a multi-billion pound contract to build the Third Bosphorus Bridge in Istanbul.

Astaldi’s joint venture partner, Turkish firm Ictas, declared that the pairing had won the contract earlier this summer after submitting the bid with the shortest construction period of 10 years, two months, 20 days (NCE 5 July).

Its solution for the 1.4km suspension bridge features a radical Michel Virlogeux-inspired design modelled on New York’s Brooklyn bridge. It will feature cable stays to provide extra stiffness.

The cable-stayed/suspension hybrid solution is needed after Virlogeux rejected the original concept design of a double-deck structure to carry the eight lane highway and twin track railway that will cross it.
Mark Hansford

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