The 25 de Abril Bridge (translation: 25th of April Bridge, in Portuguese: Ponte 25 de Abril, pron. ) is a suspension bridge connecting the city of Lisbon, capital of Portugal, to the municipality of Almada on the left bank of the Tagus river. It was inaugurated on August 6 1966 and a train platform was added in 1999. It is often compared to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, USA, due to their similarities and same construction company. With a total length of 2,277 m, it is the 19th largest suspension bridge in the world. The upper platform carries six car lanes, the lower platform two train tracks. Until 1974 the bridge was named Salazar Bridge.
In 1953 a new Government commission started working and recommended in 1958 building the bridge, choosing the south anchor point adjacent to the recently built monument to Christ the King (Cristo-Rei). In 1959 the international open bid for the project received four bids. In 1960 the winner was announced as a consortium headed by the United States Steel Export Company, which had submitted a bid in 1935.
On November 5 1962 construction began. 45 months later the bridge was inaugurated on August 6 1966, six months ahead of schedule. Presiding at the ceremony was the President of Portugal, Admiral Américo Thomaz. Also present were the Prime-Minister, dictator António de Oliveira Salazar, and the Patriarch of Lisbon, Cardinal Manuel Gonçalves Cerejeira. The bridge was christened Salazar Bridge (Ponte Salazar), in honor of the Prime-Minister.
The bridge was built by the American Bridge Company, part of the winning consortium, assisted by eleven local companies. The steel was imported from the USA. Four workers lost their lives, out of 3,000 that worked on the site, for a total of 2,185,000 man-hours of work. The total cost of the bridge came to 2,200,000,000 Portuguese escudos, or US $ 32 million (US $201 million in 2006 adjusted for inflation).
Soon after the Carnation Revolution in 1974, the bridge was renamed the 25 de Abril Bridge, the day the revolution had occurred. A symbol of those times was captured on film, with citizens removing the big "Salazar" brass sign from one of the main pillars of the bridge and painting a provisional "25 de Abril" in its place.
Cars crossing the bridge make a peculiar hum - - as two of the lanes are metallic platforms instead of asphalt.
Since June 30 1999, the lower platform carries two railroad tracks. To accommodate this, the bridge underwent extensive structural reinforcements, including a second set of main cables, placed above the original set, and the main towers were increased in height. The rail line had been part of the initial design, but was eliminated for economy, and the initial structure had been lightened. Original builder American Bridge Company was called again for the job, performing the first aerial spinning of additional main cables on a loaded, fully operational suspension bridge.
Traffic soon increased well beyond predictions, and has remained at maximum capacity despite the enlargement from four to six lanes, the addition of the rail line, and the building of a second bridge serving Lisbon, the Vasco da Gama Bridge. A third bridge has been on and off Government plans for some time.
Several movies have been filmed on the bridge, including some scenes in the 1969 James Bond film On Her Majesty's Secret Service when James Bond is in a car with Marc Ange Draco's henchmen and they drive across a bridge, and the bridge is featured near the end of the movie when Bond marries Tracy and drives with her in Bond's Aston Martin across the bridge again.
When opened one had to park their car and walk to buy the toll ticket costing 20 escudos. In June 14 1994, the Government, which ran the bridge at the time, raised the toll by 50% (100 to 150 escudos), to prepare to give the bridge in concession for 40 years from January 1 1996. The concessionaire was Lusoponte, a private consortium formed to build the Vasco da Gama Bridge at zero-cost to the public finances in exchange for tolls from both bridges. As a result, a popular uprising led to road blockades of the bridge and consequent police charges, weakening the Government. As of 2008, the toll is set at € 1.30 for passenger cars, northbound (into Lisbon). There is no toll southbound and no toll either way during August.
Upon completion the bridge had the longest suspended span and the longest main span in Continental Europe, the world's longest continuous truss, and the world's deepest bridge foundation. It was the fifth largest suspension bridge in the world, the largest outside the USA. Today it is the 17th largest suspension bridge in the world.
In 2006 a daily average of 150,000 cars cross the bridge, including 7,000 on the peak hour. Rail traffic is also heavy, with a daily average of 157 trains. In all, around 380,000 people cross the bridge daily (190,000 if considering return trips).
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