Like Atlas carrying the world on his shoulders, the huge bridges on the Egnatia Highway support a giant project

The immensely tall bridges that span the Egnatia Highway in northern Greece embody the spirit of the project. Like Atlas bearing the world on his shoulders, the bridges carry all the traffic and life of the highway, uniting not only areas but whole worlds – the Ionian and the Adriatic with the Black Sea and the Bosporus, Igoumenitsa with Evros and Epirus with Macedonia and Thrace. Ambitious Many drivers who use the Egnatia Highway may not be aware of what a vast construction project it is, but the 680-kilometer highway now nearing completion is one of the most impressive roads in Europe. It is not just its length that makes the Egnatia Highway such an ambitious project, but the challenge of building a road through such rugged country where strict environmental restrictions apply (such as those protecting forests and wildlife in areas like Pindus, Nestos, Vermio and Aliakmonas) as well as the need to build a large number of tunnels and bridges that are the first of their kind in Greece. Of the 1,650 large and small technical projects built along the road’s length, the bridges are of the greatest interest. The varied topography and the need to avoid building large embankments that would alter the landscape have made it necessary to build 550 bridges and crossings. Special studies were conducted to design bridges that would be able to withstand powerful earthquakes, the latest construction methods were employed, and great emphasis was put on making it easy to inspect and maintain so that the bridges could last their projected 12-year life span, Effi Sarridou, director of the studies for the Egnatia Highway, told Kathimerini. Built on the principle of German autobahns, they are dual split-carriageway bridges with independent supports. In all, they span more than 40 kilometers, at a total cost estimated at more than 600 million euros. The height of the bridges, the susceptibility of the area to earthquakes, and the geotechnical complexity of the structures have made them some of the most advanced bridges anywhere in the world. Of the bridges that have already been built, striking examples are the Votonosio at Metsovo, with a central span of 230 meters between supports, the 92-meter Greveniotiko bridge on the outskirts of Grevena, and the G12 bridge at Polymilo, Kozani, with a maximum pier height of 80 meters. Of those still under construction, outstanding examples include the Metsovo bridge with a maximum span of 235 meters and maximum height of 100 meters, and the 1,035-meter Arachthos bridge. According to Georgios Konstantinidis, coordinator of the western sector of the Egnatia Highway, where there are more bridges than anywhere else in Greece, the studies «made use of Greek staff and the knowledge and experience of technical studies companies abroad.» New technology Commenting on the protection against earthquakes, Egnatia Odos SA civil engineer Evgenia Gavaise told Kathimerini, «Special emphasis was given to the use of modern methods of analysis and applying technologies that are capable of absorbing energy.» On Friday the Central Macedonia branch of the Technical Chamber of Greece and the Thessaloniki Engineers’ Association will highlight the importance of the bridges at a conference on the most important ones.

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