Baluarte BridgeThe record-breaking bridge
This spectacular structure, which was the world’s tallest cable-stay bridge at the time of its construction, took four years to build under the auspices of VSL. Making the mammoth project all the more technically challenging, the Baluarte Bridge stands in a remote area surrounded by steep slopes.
The Baluarte Bridge, which was handed over in January 2012, crosses a canyon in the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. It was intended to single-handedly compensate for the lack of connections between the east and west of Mexico. Building it resulted in one of North America’s largest ever construction sites.
Choosing VSL, a subsidiary of the Bouygues Construction Group, for the project, the Mexican Ministry of Communication and Transportation was calling on the leader in the construction of prefabricated bridges and cable-stay systems. The impressive dimensions of the Baluarte Bridge certainly pointed to a complex and difficult project. As a member of the consortium responsible for carrying it out, VSL had to mobilise all its expertise to design, supply and assemble the form travellers used for building the central span of the bridge, and then for installing the cables and carrying out the post-tensioning of the bridge’s piers and deck.
The Baluarte Bridge reaches a height of 403 metres above the bed of the Baluarte Bridge, recognised in 2012 by Guinness World Records. Its span of 520 metres is the longest on the American continent. These impressive dimensions necessitated the use of a specially designed form traveller system to erect the steel deck of the central span, which consists of steel voussoirs weighing up to 120 tonnes. VSL also had to contend with the geographical location of the site, in a remote, steep valley, by building a 25-kilometre temporary road on the mountainside. The aim was to connect the entrance to the site, situated 2,000 metres above sea level, and the highest point of the project, 700 metres above the Baluarte River.
Opened in January 2012, the Baluarte Bridge is a vitally important infrastructure for economic growth and tourism in Mexico. The structure forms part of the highway that now replaces the dangerous, serpentine road in the north of the country known as the Devil’s Backbone. For car drivers, the bridge has reduced the journey time between Mazatlán, on the Pacific coast, and Durango, in the centre of the country, from six hours to 2 hours 30 minutes.