Today in Transportation History – 2002: A Bridge On The Feet of Elephants

More than four months after first being opened to vehicular and pedestrian traffic, a new major bridge in Thailand was dedicated. Thailand’s King Bhumibol Adulyadej (also known as Rama IX), who reigned from 1946 to 2016, presided over the ceremony. The event took place on the birth anniversary of his deceased brother and immediate predecessor King Ananda Mahidol (also known as Rama VIII), for whom the bridge was named.

The Rama VIII Bridge crosses the Chao Phraya River in the capital city of Bangkok. The bridge, measuring 1,558 feet in length, is supported on the west bank of the river by a single 520–foot-tall tower with an inverted-Y shape.  At the time of its completion, the Rama VIII Bridge was one of the world’s largest asymmetric cable-stayed bridges.

The bridge also includes various ornamental features representing several of the nation’s most enduring symbols. There are lotus motifs on the pedestrian railings, for example, and the bases of the tower have been built into octagonal enclosures that resemble the feet of an elephant. As one of the engineers who helped build the bridge said in a Roads & Bridges magazine article, King Bhumibol Adulyadej “wanted it to reflect Thai traditions and Thai culture in a meaningful way.”

Along with bearing the name of Rama VIII, the bridge has a large statue of him near the tower; this statue was unveiled by King Bhumibol Adulyadej in 2012. The bridge has received a number of engineering awards for its design. In addition, an image of the bridge appears in Thai currency. This image can be seen behind a portrait of King Ananda Mahidol on the back of the Series 15 twenty baht banknotes.

For more information about the Rama VIII Bridge, please check out and the Roads & Bridges article “Soaring on the feet of an elephant” (August 2003) at

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