The construction of the third bridge over the Panama Canal, a mega-work of almost 600 million dollars that will connect the country’s Caribbean coast from April next year and that rises in the Atlantic entrance of the interoceanic road, reached today its final stretch.
"We have reached an important point, since today the two parts of the bridge are united, the east side with the west side," said the water route administrator, Jorge Luis Quijano, during the so-called ceremony of the last concrete dump, a symbolic ceremony that marks the beginning of the final phase of a work.
The bridge, whose construction began in May 2013 and is run by the French Vinci, will connect directly the Caribbean city of Colón with Costa Abajo de Colón, a very isolated town with a population of about 40,000 people.
The work will also help people reach farther provinces such as Coclé, Veraguas, Bocas del Toro or the indigenous Ngäbe-Buglé region faster.
"This bridge is a very important piece in the conquest of the Atlantic and opens the doors for the development of the Panamanian Caribbean," said the country's president, Juan Carlos Varela.
This is the only bridge on the Atlantic side of the Canal, since the other two are in the Pacific sector, and is located approximately 3 kilometers north of the Gatún and Agua Clara locks.
Currently, crossing the Canal in this area is a real odyssey, because people have to get on a ferry or go over the same Gatún locks, often requiring to stop the traffic of ships to let people pass.
The president invited private companies "to put their eyes on Colón" and in the Caribbean, a touristically forgotten area, since most of the hotel developments in Panama widespread along the Pacific coast, a few kilometers from the capital.
"These beautiful beaches and towns of Costa Abajo de Colón, with their rich traditions, will now have access to the entire country, and the bridge will also enable access to Fort San Lorenzo, one of the greatest attractions of Panama," added Varela, who listed other projects that are about to be completed in this area, such as the Donoso copper mine or the Colón natural gas plant.
Administrator Quijano explained the design of the bridge is "singular", since it is a concrete cable-stayed structure, with four lanes and a light of 530 meters (distance between pillar and pillar): "I think there are no many bridges in the world with that light," he added.
The project also includes the accesses to the bridge and the connection with the main road of Costa Abajo.
The work was scheduled to be completed by the end of this year, but the inauguration had to be postponed until April 2019 due to the strike last May, which suspended hundreds of projects for a month and was convened by the country’s main union to demand higher wages for construction workers.
Through the Canal, built by the US at the beginning of the last century and transferred to Panama on December 31, 1999, close to 6 percent of world trade passes and connects more than 140 maritime routes and 1,700 ports in 160 different countries.
June marked the second year of the Canal expansion inauguration, which was built so that the so-called neopanamax ships could pass. These ships have a capacity to carry up to 14,000 containers.
Container transport remains the main business of the water route, but the new locks have allowed the canal to open to other products, such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) or large cruise ships. ACAN-EFE