Mexico's Baluarte bridge becomes world's highest

MEXICO CITY -- Named the world's tallest, the Baluarte cable-stayed bridge is a crucial link in a major highway that promises to cut transportation times and boost economic activity across Mexico's north.
Written by Lauren Villagran, Correspondent (Mexico City)

MEXICO CITY – The bridge hangs high enough to fit the Eiffel Tower snug beneath it.

Mexico's Puente Baluarte became the world's tallest cable-stayed bridge this month. Suspended 400 meters (1,312 feet) over the ground, the span is a crucial link in a new highway that crosses mountain crags and deep ravines of the Sierra Madre, an area known as the "Devil's Spine."

The bridge, which cost 2 billion pesos to construct, or $146.4 million, connects the states of Sinaloa and Durango. The highway under construction is expected to facilitate the movement of people and goods – tourists to coastal Sinaloa’s pristine beaches, for example, and agricultural products and manufactured goods through Durango, north toward the U.S. border.

When the highway is completed later this year, a trip by car between the city of Durango and the beach resort of Mazatlán that could take eight hours will be slashed to about three and a half hours. Tractor-trailers that took up to 12 hours to make the same trip will arrive in a third of that time, said Mexican President Felipe Calderón in a ceremonial inauguration of the bridge.

Mexico City-based Grupo Tradeco led the project, which took a decade to complete. The company is also handling construction of the Durango-Mazatlán highway.

Guinness World Records recorded the cable-stayed bridge – four lanes suspended by 152 steel ropes – as the world's highest on Jan. 5. (The Eiffel Tower stands 324 meters tall, or 1,063 feet.)

Calderón has made infrastructure investments a cornerstone of his administration, now in its fifth and final year. Modernizing infrastructure also buttresses Calderón's security goals. His administration has been battling the nation's entrenched drug cartels in a war that has cost more than 47,000 lives, according to the government's latest statistics.

"One of the fundamental objectives of the federal government's security strategy is, along with combatting criminals, to even out the opportunities of all Mexicans," Dionisio Pérez-Jácome Friscione, head of the Communications and Transportation Secretariat, wrote in a recent blog about the Puente Baluarte. "Because a more inclusive and egalitarian society is a more just and more secure society."

Photo: Alfredo Guerrero

This post was originally published on Smartplanet.com

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