General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge

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The General Rafael Urdaneta Bridge is located at the outlet of Lake Maracaibo, in western Venezuela. The bridge connects Maracaibo with much of the rest of the country. It is named after General Rafael Urdaneta, a Venezuelan hero in the War of Independence.

Design and construction
Made of reinforced and prestressed concrete, the cable-stayed bridge 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, an Italian. 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, Bauboag AG, Philipp Holzmann AG, Precomprimido C.A., Wayss & Freytag and K Ingenierí­a. According to eminent bridge engineer Michel Virlogeux: "the Lake Maracaibo Bridge deserves to be part of the series of the most famous bridges over the world, with the Golden Gate Bridge, the bridge over the Firth of Forth, the Brooklyn Bridge, and the Garabit Viaduct."

It was opened on 24 August 1962 by the then-president of Venezuela Romulo Betancourt. In April 1964, parts of the bridge collapsed after a ship collision. 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.

Building Activity

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