The Baluarte River Bridge
is not only the highest bridge in North America but the highest cable stayed bridge in the world surpassing the Millau Viaduct in France. It is the crown jewel of the greatest bridge and tunnel highway project ever undertaken in North America. Known as the Durango-Mazatlán highway, it will be the only crossing for more than 500 miles (800 km) between the pacific coast and the interior of Mexico. The path of this new highway roughly parallels the famous “Devil’s Backbone”, a narrow road that earned its nickname from the way it follows the precarious ridge crest of the jagged peaks of the Sierra Madre Occidental mountains. The dangerous road is a seemingly endless onslaught of twisting, terrifying turns that are so tight there are times the road nearly spirals back into itself.
By cutting a safer, more direct route through the mountains, the highway department of Mexico hopes to improve trade and increase tourism between the city of Durango and the coastal city of Mazatlán. To achieve this connection, the Mexican engineers were forced to design an autopista with no less than 63 tunnels - nearly 10 times more than have ever been built on any road in North America. For big bridge fans, the highway is no less amazing with a parade of towering concrete beam bridges. Including Baluarte, there will be 8 bridges that exceed 300 feet (90 mtrs) in height including Santa Lucia, Neverías, La Pinta, Chico, Botijas, Pueblo Nuevo and El Carrizo. Only China’s West Hurong and Kunming-Guiyang and Italy’s A3 highways have a greater collection of high bridges.
Forming the border between Sinaloa and Durango states, the Baluarte River is the most formidable obstacle on the route with a gorge more than a quarter mile in height. To cross it, the Mexican engineers decided to go with a cable stayed bridge. It would allow the construction to proceed outward from a single tower on either side of the canyon, avoiding the difficult and expensive construction of temporary false work. Once completed, the final height of 1,321 feet (403 mtrs) will make it the second highest roadway bridge on earth. It will also have the longest span of any cable stayed bridge in North America at 1,706 feet (520 mtrs), exceeding the John James Audubon bridge in St. Francisville, Louisiana by 123 feet (37 mtrs).
When it is completed, the Baluarte crossing will be more than just a preeminent bridge but a signal to its bigger neighbor to the North that Mexico can design and build bridges with the same skill and perfection as the best of them. As a stretch of North American pavement without parallel, the Durango-Mazatlán highway will become a proud, prominent symbol of Mexico’s civil engineering skills for decades to come.
The Baluarte Bridge in Numbers & Facts:
Location: Pueblo Nuevo, Durango and El Palmito, Sinaloa, Mexico
1,321 feet high / 402 meters high
1,706 foot span / 520 meter span
Started in Feb 21 2008. Ended Janury 5 2012
The bridge’s largest supporting pillar is 153 meters high, with a base measuring 18 meters by 30 meters.
Required 103,000 tons of cement and almost 17,000 tons of steel.
The bridge joins the states of Durango and Sinaloa, Mexico.
Constructed, by Mexican firm TRADECO
|Mexican Federal Highway 40
The Durango Mazatlan Highway is the final part of the highway corridor connecting the Pacific Ocean (Mazatlán, Sinaloa) and the Gulf of Mexico (Matamoros, Tamaulipas) known as the Interoceanic Highway linking cities like Torreon, Gomez Palacio, Durango, Matamoros, Saltillo, Monterrey & Mazatlan. The Monterrey to Durango section is a 4-lane divided highway. The rest of the road is a 2-lane undivided road. Parallel to this highway, in some sections, runs Federal Highway 40D, which is a 4-lane restricted access toll road.
Durango Mazatlan Highway 40
The old Highway 40 connecting the city of Durango and Mazatlan is a narrow road (6.5 m wide) with lost of curves, with 305 Km long it takes an average of 6 hours and up to 8 hours during the winter months due the danger of ice, operational speed ranging from 30 to 80 Km/h,
New Durango Mazatlan Highway 40D
The new highway is a high performance road, has 230 Km lenght , (75 Km less than the old one) although is a 2 lane road (it has 4 in some segments) is 12 m wide, takes 2.30 hours (an average of 3.30 hours less than the old one) with an operational speed from 90 Km to 110 Km)
It is considered the biggest and costly infrastructure work during the presidency of Felipe Calderon and one of the biggest in Mexico since the construction of the rail road network at the end of the 1800s century.