With an impressive length of 1,974 meters, the Brăila Bridge claims the title of Romania’s largest and ranks as the third-largest suspended bridge in Europe. This visionary endeavor, initiated in December 2018, has been executed at a total cost of EUR 500 million, financed through a combination of European funds and state budget allocations. A monumental achievement in Romanian infrastructure, the Brăila Bridge stands as the country’s most ambitious project of the last three decades. The eagerly awaited bridge is scheduled to open its lanes to traffic tomorrow.
The construction process of this architectural marvel was undertaken jointly by Italian construction giant, Astaldi (rebranded as WeBuild), and the renowned Japanese firm, IHI Infrastructure Systems. Their collaboration involved an intensive 12-month design phase, followed by a meticulous 36-month execution period. Initially slated for completion in December 2021, the bridge’s inauguration had faced delays, but the Ministry of Transport has now confirmed the opening of a section for public use on July 6.
However, despite its historic significance, the Brăila Bridge faced various challenges during its development. The contractual deadline extension was attributed to the belated initiation of utility relocation tenders, which hindered the construction process. This led to legal disputes with the Romanian National Company of Motorways and National Roads (CNAIR), culminating in more than 20 ongoing legal battles, some of which were won by the construction consortium.
The Brăila Bridge is a testament to engineering prowess, boasting a staggering length of 1.97 kilometers (2.2 kilometers including viaducts) and an impressive width of 32 meters, accommodating two lanes per direction, each measuring 3.5 meters in width. This design accolade places the bridge at the forefront of Romanian and European engineering achievements, ranking among the continent’s top five bridges when considering central span and length, according to WeBuild.
The bridge’s magnificent pillars currently stand as the tallest structures in Romania, soaring to a remarkable height of 192 meters.
The colossal steel cables, intricately woven from steel wires, extend a total distance of 81,000 kilometers – an astounding length, enough to encircle the globe twice over. These robust cables collectively weigh over 6,700 tons, a testament to the project’s engineering excellence.
As the bridge’s grand opening approaches, anticipation has mounted regarding the transportation options available. At the time of inauguration, only the E87/DN 22 Smârdan-Măcin route will be accessible. However, the Ministry of Transport has assured the completion of the Brăila-Jijila road by year-end.
“In the first stage, road traffic will be opened only partially, with unloading in Tulcea county on the road to Măcin (stage I), and then the route to Jijila and the first kilometer in the Braila area (stage II) will be completed as soon as possible.” Says Irinel Ionel Scrioșteanu, Secretary of State in the Ministry of Transport and Infrastructure.
BridgeWeb publication mentions that more than 250 workers and technicians were involved in installing 86 sections of the deck, each weighing 260t. They developed a specific method to raise and set each one. A lifting beam near the factory where the sections were made placed them on barges, which then travelled 7km along the Danube. Once they arrived under the bridge, the sections were lifted to their final position on permanent hangers.
Still work in progress
At this moment, pedestrians and cyclists will not have immediate access to the suspended bridge, despite its provision of sidewalks. Access will be restricted to maintenance vehicles, leaving pedestrians and cyclists to rely on the traditional ferry services for river crossings. Nevertheless, Brăila City Hall plans to organize pleasure boat rides, allowing those without vehicles to marvel at the engineering wonder from the waters of the Danube.
Regarding operational hours, the bridge will not be accessible to vehicles 24/7 during the initial phase. Ongoing works to finalize the main road will necessitate the temporary removal and relocation of scaffolding and cranes. An official schedule is yet to be released; however, the Ministry of Transport has indicated the bridge will be open non-stop on weekends and from 6 am to 8 pm or 9 pm on weekdays, according to Wall Street publication.
Initial plans considered tolling the Brăila Bridge on the Tulcea county side, but specific pricing details have not been disclosed.
The Brăila Bridge concept dates back to Ceaușescu’s era
The concept of the Brăila Bridge traces its roots to the era of Nicolae Ceaușescu. In the late 1970s, the communist regime initiated an ambitious infrastructure development program, marking a significant period after several decades without a new Danube bridge. Now, as the Brăila Bridge becomes a symbol of Romanian progress and engineering prowess.
Photo courtesy of Pod Suspendat Braila Facebook page