The Vasco da Gama Bridge crosses 17 km, 11 miles, over the Tagus River in Lisbon, the capital of Portugal. It was opened in 1998 after 3 years of construction to relieve congestion on the other bridge and it was named to celebrate the explorer Vasco da Gama who discovered the sea route from Europe to India. Technically the bridge is no longer the largest bridge in Europe with the addition of the bridge that connects Denmark and Sweden but it did hold the amazing title at the time of its erection and it is still highly regarded as one of the longest bridges in the world.
The bridge itself carries six road lanes and has a life expectancy of 120 years. It took $1.1 billion to complete the project and it is an architectural marvel. First of all, they took careful measures to make the bridge environmentally friendly. In one case they moved the one side of the viaducts inland to preserve marshes and they were careful to tilt the bridge’s lamps inward to avoid casting light on the river below. Even more notably, the length of the bridge required engineers to factor in the curvature of the earth and this broke new ground for architectural plans as they engineered special pillars to support several sections of the bridge. The cable stays are built to withstand immense wind speed and the architectural integrity of the huge structure is measured to withstand an earthquake 4.5 times stronger than the strongest earthquake in Lisbon’s history.
Even on cloudy day the bridge can be seen from nearly anywhere in the city. As you get nearer the bridge you can walk out on various wooden platforms which extend out over the water and the bridge seems even to disappear into the horizon. The panoramic view of the river and Lisbon are breathtaking from the bridge, but be sure to keep your eyes on the road.