Heroes of the Chaco Bridge, or in Spanish, Puente Heroes del Chaco, is the newest addition to the Asuncion skyline.
Crossing the River Paraguay it is clearly visible from as far away as the Bay of Asuncion. That is a few kilometres downstream. From there it dominates the distant horizon.
The bridge itself is a Cable Stayed bridge. That give it a look not dissimilar to a Suspension bridge, although it works quite differently.
In a cable stayed bridge the cables descend from towers placed along the bridge rather from a cable running the length of the bridge as would be the case with a suspension bridge. The effect of this is that it is the towers themselves rather than anchorings at either end of the bridge that support the weight of the bridge deck.
Coincidentally the particular design chosen with cable radiating out from descending points on the towers is called a Harp. The harp is also the national instrument of Paraguay.
There are a number of reason for choosing a cable stayed bridge over a suspension bridge. One is purely artistic The clean, slim look of a bridge held up by cables fanning out from central towers.
Additionally there are practical reason for selecting a cable stayed bridge. Firstly the design is more suitable for shorter spans where building a suspension bridge would be impracticable.
Furthermore geology may affect the choice of design. Solid rocks are required for the anchoring of the chains of a suspension bridge, but with all the forces being passed down through the towers the quality of rocks on either bank is not an issue.
Construction of the Heroes of the Chaco bridge began in 2020 after the awarding of the contracts to do so in late 2019. The work was then done by two Paraguayan firms.
After the awarding of the contracts in December 2019 the first ground was broken on 12th June 2020. The date upon which the work began was highly symbolic marking the 85th anniversary of the end of the Chaco War.
From there work commenced at a pace with a total work force of 1,500 of whom the maximum working at one time was 900. The bridge was scheduled to open in December 2023 but was completed and open a little ahead the projected date.
To build the bridge 7.4 Km of new road ways needed to be constructed. These included viaducts 1 Km long at either end of the bridge and 450 m of the bridge itself over the River Paraguay.
Viaducts were placed at either end of the bridge to lift it above environmentally important wetland habitats along the banks of the river. In doing so anyone crossing the bridge will be able to pass across these natural areas without impacting them.
The height of the bridge deck is 29 m above the normal level of the river. Originally a slightly lower bridge had been proposed. The raised height will allow unimpeded travel for all shipping along the River Paraguay.
For the bridge deck itself the width is approximately 30 m. This allows for two lanes of traffic in each direction. Furthermore the bridge also has a cycle way and a footpath ensuring that it is accessible to all.
This bridge represents only the 3rd bridge across the River Paraguay in Paraguay. The other two are Ramanso Bridge 8 Km further up stream and Nanawa in Concepcion. As such it will represent a mayor increase in connectivity between Eastern and Western Paraguay and the only crossing in Asuncion itself.
Ramanso Bridge has become highly congested and the addition of another bridge across the river will resolve that issue.
The increased connectivity across Paraguay is also projected to improve connections across the region in general and in doing so benefit both Brazil and Argentina.
Linked by it’s 7.4 Km of roadways to the Paraguayan road network the bridge is just a few Km from Asuncion Old Town at the far end of the Costanera. From there it crosses to the town of Chaco’i on the northern bank of the river. Then from there to the growing towns north of the river and beyond.
The bridge will greatly shorten journey times to and from Asuncion and it has been designed with an anticipated capacity of 10,000 vehicles per day.
This new bridge and a number of other infrastructure projects are aimed at ensuring the continued economic growth of Paraguay. This growth will be both in Asuncion and in the towns across the country that will benefit from increased and faster connectivity.
The recent upgrading of the main East – West route across the country is another example of this policy.
For those though who are in Asuncion without any great need to get anywhere quickly the graceful profile of the Heroes of the Chaco bridge will simply be something of beauty to observe and enjoy.