The project involves the design and construction of a four-lane vehicular suspension bridge with a total length of 1,050m, spanning a central width of 530m across the canal and measuring […]
The project involves the design and construction of a four-lane vehicular suspension bridge with a total length of 1,050m, spanning a central width of 530m across the canal and measuring 212.5m in height. It will be the world’s longest concrete cable-stayed bridge when completed in 2017, and was 44% complete as of January 2016. The Atlantic Bridge adds to the two existing Panama Canal bridges: the Bridge of the Americas, inaugurated in 1962, and the Centennial Bridge, inaugurated in 2004, both of which are located on the Pacific side. At 75m above sea level, the Atlantic Bridge will allow the largest container vessels to pass through uninterrupted by vehicle crossings. The project also involves the construction of viaducts on either side of the canal and highway infrastructure to connect the bridge with existing roads, a $395.7 million contract that has yet to be awarded. The bridge will be constructed entirely out of reinforced concrete and will be located 3km north of the Gatun locks, near the city of Colón.
The design, which commenced in June 2011, was carried out by a consortium made up of China Communications Construction Company and consulting firm Louis Berger Group. The latter was also involved in the construction of the first two bridges over the canal. The $366 million construction contract was granted in 2012 to Puente Atlántico S.A., following a tender process in which consortiums Acciona-Tradeco and Odebrecht-Hyundai were also prequalified. Puente Atlántico S.A. is owned by French civil engineering firm Vinci Construction Grands Projects, whose portfolio include the Normandy Bridge in France and the Confederation Bridge in Canada. The company offered the lowest bid, according to the official estimates of the Panama Canal Authority (ACP). Construction works, which began in May 2013, were briefly stalled in 2014 following a workers’ strike led by the Construction Workers’ Syndicate (SUNTRACS), which was demanding higher wages and a review of the security measures in place. Despite the setback, the strike ultimately has not pushed back the forecasted completion date of 2017.
Last October, the ACP announced that it was raising $450 million on the international bond market to finance the completion of the project. The 20-year bond issue is the ACP’s first offering on the international market and was assigned a rating of A2 by Moody’s, above the Government of Panama’s country ceiling of A3, which according to the rating agency reflected the importance of the canal as an infrastructure asset to the country. The paper was placed in the US (71%), Europe (18%), Latin America (6%), and Asia (5%). In addition to job creation during the construction of the bridge and its subsequent maintenance, one of the wider implications of the project is an increase in connectivity that is set to contribute to the overall economic development of the surrounding areas in communities such as Escobal, Cuipo, and Ciricito, benefitting approximately 77,000 people.
Plans for the construction of a fourth bridge over the canal, over which Line Three of the Panama Metro will eventually pass, are also already under way, and California-based T.Y. Lin was recently awarded the contract for Technical Assistance for Management by the Ministry of Public Works. Companies from the US, Brazil, Spain, Korea, Italy, and China have all expressed their interest in getting involved in the project, which entails six lanes for vehicles in addition to the third Metro Line, further enhancing the ongoing development of Panama’s local transport infrastructure.