1998: A Portuguese Bridge Opens Just in Time for a World Exposition – and the 21st Century

March 29, 1998

In Portugal, a cable-stayed bridge that is flanked by viaducts made its public debut in the frequesia (civil parish) of Parque das Nacões in the country’s capital city of Lisbon. This structure, which spans the river Tagus, was named after Portuguese explorer Vasco da Gama (1460s-1524).

Measuring 7.7 miles (12.4 kilometers) in length, the Vasco da Gama Bridge is one of the longest bridges in Europe. The six-lane highway bridge was designed by Portuguese civil engineer Armando Rito (1936- ), and construction on it began in 1995.

A key reason for the construction of this bridge involved helping reduce traffic congestion on the 25 de Abril Bridge, which likewise spans the river Tagus in that region of Lisbon. In addition, the Vasco da Gama Bridge opened just in time to accommodate the large number of people attending the 1998 Lisbon World Exposition (better known as Expo ’98). This world’s fair was held in Lisbon from May 22 to September 30 in 1998. A total of 143 countries were represented at Expo ’98, which ultimately hosted about 11 million visitors altogether.

As part of the opening-day activities for the Vasco da Gama Bridge, dozens of Portuguese Air Force jets swooped above the new structure. Jorge Sampaio (1939-2021), who was president of Portugal from 1996 to 2006, formally inaugurated the bridge during those Sunday ceremonies. “This bridge is a great European project of which we are truly proud,” proclaimed Sampaio to those in attendance. “This inauguration symbolizes the spirit with which Portugal is modernizing at the end of the millennium.”

Photo Credit: Paulo Valdivieso (licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 2.0 Generic license at https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/deed.en)

For more information on the Vasco da Gama Bridge, please check out https://structurae.net/en/structures/vasco-da-gama-bridge

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