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General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge

General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge

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The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge is located at the outlet of Lake Maracaibo
Lake Maracaibo
Lake Maracaibo is a large brackish bay in Venezuela at . It is connected to the Gulf of Venezuela by Tablazo Strait at the northern end, and fed by numerous rivers, the largest being the Catatumbo. It is commonly considered a lake rather than a bay or lagoon, and at 13,210 km² it would be the...

, in western Venezuela
Venezuela , officially called the Bolivarian Republic of Venezuela , is a tropical country on the northern coast of South America. It borders Colombia to the west, Guyana to the east, and Brazil to the south...

. The bridge connects Maracaibo
Maracaibo is a city and municipality located in northwestern Venezuela off the western coast of the Lake Maracaibo. It is the second-largest city in the country after the national capital Caracas and the capital of Zulia state...

 with much of the rest of the country. It is named after General
A general officer is an officer of high military rank, usually in the army, and in some nations, the air force. The term is widely used by many nations of the world, and when a country uses a different term, there is an equivalent title given....

 Rafael Urdaneta
Rafael Urdaneta
Rafael José Urdaneta y Faría was a Venezuelan General and hero of the Spanish American wars of independence in several countries in northern South America.- Biographic data :...

, a Venezuelan hero in the War of Independence.

Design and construction

Made of reinforced
Reinforced concrete
Reinforced concrete is concrete in which reinforcement bars , reinforcement grids, plates or fibers have been incorporated to strengthen the concrete in tension. It was invented by French gardener Joseph Monier in 1849 and patented in 1867. The term Ferro Concrete refers only to concrete that is...

 and prestressed concrete
Prestressed concrete
Prestressed concrete is a method for overcoming concrete's natural weakness in tension. It can be used to produce beams, floors or bridges with a longer span than is practical with ordinary reinforced concrete...

, the cable-stayed bridge
Cable-stayed bridge
A cable-stayed bridge is a bridge that consists of one or more columns , with cables supporting the bridge deck....

 spans 8,678 metres (5.4 miles) from shore to shore. The five main spans are each 235 metres long. They are supported from 92 metre tall towers, and provide 46 metre clearance to the water below. The bridge carries only vehicles.
The competition to design the bridge started in 1957 and was won by Riccardo Morandi
Riccardo Morandi
Riccardo Morandi was an Italian civil engineer best known for his interesting use of reinforced concrete. Amongst his best known works were the General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge, an 8 km crossing of Lake Maracaibo incorporating seven cable-stayed bridge spans with unusual piers, and the...

, an Italian
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

. Morrandi's was the only concrete design out of twelve entries, and was expected to be less expensive to maintain, as well as providing valuable experience of prestressed concrete technology for Venezuela. Construction was carried out by several companies, including Grün & Bilfinger, Julius Berger
Julius Berger
Julius Berger may refer to:*Julius Berger, character in Outcasts *Julius Berger Nigeria PLC, a German construction company in Nigeria*Julius Berger FC, a football club of Julius Berger Nigeria PLC...

, Bauboag AG, Philipp Holzmann AG, Precomprimido C.A., Wayss & Freytag and K Ingeniería.

According to eminent bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux
Michel Virlogeux
Dr. Michel Virlogeux is a French structural engineer and bridge specialist.-Career:Michel Virlogeux graduated from the École Polytechnique in 1967 and from the École Nationale des Ponts et Chaussées in 1970...


"the Lake Maracaibo Bridge deserves to be part of the series of the most famous bridges over the world, with the Golden Gate Bridge
Golden Gate Bridge
The Golden Gate Bridge is a suspension bridge spanning the Golden Gate, the opening of the San Francisco Bay into the Pacific Ocean. As part of both U.S. Route 101 and California State Route 1, the structure links the city of San Francisco, on the northern tip of the San Francisco Peninsula, to...

, the bridge over the Firth of Forth, the Brooklyn Bridge
Brooklyn Bridge
The Brooklyn Bridge is one of the oldest suspension bridges in the United States. Completed in 1883, it connects the New York City boroughs of Manhattan and Brooklyn by spanning the East River...

, and the Garabit Viaduct
Garabit viaduct
The Garabit Viaduct is a railway arch bridge spanning the Truyère river near Ruynes-en-Margeride , Cantal, France, in the mountainous Massif Central region. The bridge was constructed between 1880 and 1884 by Gustave Eiffel, with structural engineering by Maurice Koechlin, and was opened in 1885...



It was opened on 24 August 1962 by the then-president of Venezuela Romulo Betancourt
Rómulo Betancourt
Rómulo Ernesto Betancourt Bello , known as "The Father of Venezuelan Democracy", was President of Venezuela from 1945 to 1948 and again from 1959 to 1964, as well as leader of Accion Democratica, Venezuela's dominant political party in the 20th century...


In April 1964, parts of the bridge collapsed after a
ship collision
USS Narraguagas (AOG-32)
USS Narraguagas was a Mettawee-class gasoline tanker acquired by the U.S. Navy for the dangerous task of transporting gasoline to warships in the fleet, and to remote Navy stations....


The construction of a second cable-stayed bridge has been proposed since 1982, with a series of studies made since 2000. The cost of the new bridge has been estimated at US$440m, to be largely privately financed via tolls.

External links