- Bridge of the Americas
bridge_name= Bridge of the Americas
carries= Motor vehicles, pedestrians and bicycles
crosses= Pacific approach to the
design= Steel truss
cantilever bridgewith a tied arch suspended span
mainspan= 344 m (1,128 ft)
length= 1,654 m (5,425 ft)
width= 10.4 m (34 ft)
below= 61.3 m (201 ft) at high tide
traffic= 35,000 (2004)
October 12, 1962
The Bridge of the Americas (Spanish: Puente de las Américas; originally known as the Thatcher Ferry Bridge) is a road bridge in
Panama, which spans the Pacific entrance to the Panama Canal. Built in 1962, at a cost of US$20 million, it was the only non-swinging bridge (there are two other bridges, one at Miraflores locks and one at Gatun locks) connecting the north and south American land masses until the opening of the Centennial Bridge in 2004. The bridge was designed by Sverdrup & Parcel.cite web | url = http://www.aisc.org/Content/ContentGroups/Documents/NSBA5/20_NSBA_LongestSpans.PDF | title = World’s Longest Bridge Spans | accessdate = 2008-06-21 | author = | last = Durkee | first = Jackson | authorlink = | coauthors = | date = 1999-05-24 | year = 2008 | month = May | work = | publisher = National Steel Bridge Alliance | pages = 20, 24 | format = | language = | quote = | archiveurl = | archivedate = ]
The bridge is a cantilever design where the suspended span is a tied arch.cite web | url = http://www.aisc.org/Content/ContentGroups/Documents/NSBA5/20_NSBA_LongestSpans.PDF | title = World’s Longest Bridge Spans | accessdate = 2008-06-21 | author = | last = Durkee | first = Jackson | authorlink = | coauthors = | date = 1999-05-24 | year = 2008 | month = May | work = | publisher = National Steel Bridge Alliance | pages = 20, 24 | format = | language = | quote = | archiveurl = | archivedate = ] The bridge has a total length of 1,654 m (5,425 ft) in 14 spans, abutment to abutment. The main span measures 344 m (1,128 ft) and the tied arch (the center part of the main span) is 259 m (850 ft).cite web | url = http://www.aisc.org/Content/ContentGroups/Documents/NSBA5/20_NSBA_LongestSpans.PDF | title = World’s Longest Bridge Spans | accessdate = 2008-06-21 | author = | last = Durkee | first = Jackson | authorlink = | coauthors = | date = 1999-05-24 | year = 2008 | month = May | work = | publisher = National Steel Bridge Alliance | pages = 20, 24 | format = | language = | quote = | archiveurl = | archivedate = ] The highest point of the bridge is 117 m (384 ft) above mean sea level; the clearance under the main span is 61.3 m (201 ft) at high tide. There are wide access ramps at each end, and a pedestrian walkway on each side.
From its completion in 1962 until the opening of the Centennial Bridge in 2004, the Bridge of the Americas was a key part of the
Pan-American Highway; as the only permanent crossing over the Panama Canal it was the only permanent link between North and South Americasince the opening of the canal in 1914. (A small swinging road bridge is built into the lock structure at Gatún, and a swinging road/rail bridge crossing the canal was built at Miraflores in 1942; but these bridges are only usable when the lock gates are closed, and have very limited capacity.)
The bridge is an impressive sight, and a good view can be obtained from the Balboa Yacht Club, where many small boats tie up before or after transiting the canal. Throughout the day and night numerous vessels pass under the bridge, either entering or departing from the Panama Canal.
The need for a bridge
From the beginning of the French project to construct a canal, it was recognised that the cities of Colón and Panamá would be split from the rest of the republic by the new canal. This was an issue even during construction, when barges were used to ferry construction workers across the canal.
After the canal opened, the increasing number of cars, and the constructon of a new road leading to Chiriquí, in the west of Panama, increased the need for some kind of crossing. The Panama Canal Mechanical Division addressed this in August 1931, with the commissioning of two new ferries, the "Presidente Amador" and "President Washington." This service was expanded in August 1940, with additional barges mainly serving the military.
June 3, 1942, a road/rail swing bridge was inaugurated at the Miraflores locks; although only usable when no ships were passing, this provided some relief for traffic wishing to cross the canal. Still, it was clear that a more substantial solution would be required. To meet the growing needs of vehicle traffic, another ferry, the "Presidente Porras," was added in November 1942.
The bridge project
The idea of a permanent bridge over the canal had been proposed as a major priority as early as 1923. Subsequent administrations of Panama pressed this issue with the United States, which controlled the Canal Zone; and in 1955, the Remón-Eisenhower treaty committed the United States to building a bridge.
A contract of $20,000,000 was awarded to John F. Beasly & Company who built the bridge out of steel and reinforced concrete, and the project was initiated in a ceremony which took place on
December 23, 1958, in the presence of United States Ambassador Julian Harrington, and Panamanian President Ernesto de la Guardia Navarro. Construction began on October 12, 1959, and took nearly two and one half years to complete.
The inauguration of the bridge took place on
October 12, 1962, with great ceremony. The day began with a concert by the bands of the U.S. Army and Air Force, and the Panama National Guard; this was followed by speeches, prayers, music, and the national anthems of both nations. The ribbon was cut by Maurice H. Thatcher, after which those present were allowed to walk across the bridge. The ceremony was given full nationwide coverage on radio and television; significant precautions were taken to manage the large crowds of people present. These proved inadequate, however, and pro-Panamanian protesters disrupted the ceremony, even removing the memorial plaques on the bridge. [ [http://www.serve.com/CZBrats/Articles/czp.htm Panama Canal Zone - CZPolice ] ]
When opened, the bridge was an important part of the
Pan-American Highway, and carried around 9,500 vehicles per day; however, this expanded over time, and by 2004 the bridge was carrying 35,000 vehicles per day. The bridge therefore became a significant bottleneck on the highway, which led to the construction of the Centennial Bridge, which now carries the Pan-American Highway too.
The bridge was originally named "Thatcher Ferry Bridge", after the original ferry which crossed the canal at about the same point. The ferry was, in turn, named after
Maurice H. Thatcher, a former member of the canal commission, who introduced the legislation which created the ferry. Thatcher cut the tape at the inauguration of the bridge.
The name was unpopular with the government of Panama, however, which preferred the name "Bridge of the Americas". The Panamanian view was made official by a resolution of the National Assembly on
October 2, 1962, ten days before the inauguration. The resolution read as follows:
:The bridge over the Panama Canal shall bear the name Bridge of the Americas.:Said name will be used exclusively to identify said bridge.:Panamanian government officials shall reject any document in which reference is made to the bridge by any name other than "Bridge of the Americas".:A copy of this resolution, with the appropriate note on style, shall be forwarded to all legislative bodies of the world, so that all may give the bridge the name chosen by this honorable assembly, complying with the express will of the Panamanian people.:Given in the city of Panama on the second day of the month of October of nineteen hundred and sixty-two.::President, Jorge Rubén Rosas::Secretary, Alberto Arango N.
During the inauguration ceremony (which was concluded with the playing of the "Thatcher Ferry Bridge March",), U.S. Under Secretary of State
George Wildman Ballsaid in his speech: "we can look today to this bridge as a new and bright step toward the realization of that dream of a Pan-American Highway, which is now almost a reality. The grand bridge we inaugurate today — truly a bridge of the Americas — completes the last stage of the highway from the United States to Panama".
Nonetheless, the official name of the bridge became the "Thatcher Ferry Bridge" and remained so until Panamanian control in 1979.
Postage stampswere issued with the name "Thatcher Ferry Bridge." In the postage stamps and postal history of the Canal Zonethey are well known for an error on one sheet where the bridge is missing.
* Crossings of the Panama Canal
* Mellander, Gustavo A.; Nelly Maldonado Mellander (1999). Charles Edward Magoon: The Panama Years. Río Piedras, Puerto Rico: Editorial Plaza Mayor. ISBN 1563281554. OCLC 42970390.
* Mellander, Gustavo A. (1971). The United States in Panamanian Politics: The Intriguing Formative Years. Danville, Ill.: Interstate Publishers. OCLC 138568.
* [http://www.worldheadquarters.com/panama/destinations/bridge_americas/ "Bridge of the Americas"] , from World Headquarters
* [http://www.czbrats.com/Articles/bridge.htm "The Building Of A Bridge"] , summary information from CZ Brats
* [http://www.bridgemeister.com/pic.php?pid=1156 "Bridge of the Americas"] , pictures from bridgemeister.com
* [http://www.alonsoroy.com/cp/cp07-eng.html "Inauguration Of The Bridge Of The Americas"] , from AlonsoRoy.com
* [http://maps.google.com/maps?f=q&hl=en&q=8.943076,-79.565236&t=k&om=1&ll=8.943076,-79.565236&spn=0.015071,0.027122 Aerial view of the Bridge from Google Maps]
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