Bridges to Prosperity: Paso Real Suspension Bridge Receives a Special Award of Merit at 2015 International Bridge Conference®
Bridges to Prosperity (B2P) was founded in 2001, to address the global need for safe and reliable footbridge access over impassable rivers in remote communities. Over the past 14 years, B2P has built more than 160 bridges in 18 countries, partnering with world-class engineering volunteers and local communities to create safe and reliable access to education, healthcare, and economic opportunity for well over 700,000 people.
The International Bridge Conference® (IBC) is the pre-eminent arena for the bridge industry in North America, Europe and Asia. Presented by the Engineers’ Society of Western Pennsylvania, the IBC annually attracts over 1,500 bridge owners and engineers, senior policy makers, government officials, bridge designers, construction executives, and suppliers from throughout the United States and abroad.
The IBC annually recognizes individuals and projects of distinction. At the 2015 IBC, a Special Award of Merit was presented to Bridges to Prosperity for the Paso Real Suspension Bridge, which traverses the Rio Esteli in Condega, Nicaragua.
The municipality of Condega came to B2P with the proposed bridge project after their former bridge was destroyed in Tropical Storm Matthew in 2010. After two years of designing and planning in collaboration with McNary Bergeron & Associates and Flatiron Construction, the 400-foot (121-meter) suspension bridge, the longest B2P footbridge to date, was completed in April 2014.
The Paso Real Suspension Pedestrian Bridge required a significant amount of technological development and innovation. It is the first B2P bridge with a loaded backstay, and the first B2P suspension bridge to require wind guys. The design utilized 12 post-tensioned strands, instead of the repurposed wire rope typically used in rural footbridge projects. The anchor on the east side of the river had to be built into a solid cliff, which was excavated by jackhammering into the rock. This was especially challenging for the onsite build crew, as all tools were powered by a generator and carried to site. Excavation for the anchor on west bank was performed with shovels; more than 30 cubic meters of concrete was mixed by hand; and the 10-meter tall steel towers had to be lifted, without a crane.
The partnership between the Municipality of Condega and Bridges to Prosperity began in 2011, when municipality representatives first contacted B2P to request a bridge at the Paso Real location. B2P hadn’t yet tackled a project that required such a long span, and presented as many technical challenges as the one that was needed at this location. In three years, eight bridges have been built in the Condega region, with more planned for 2015. The support of the municipal government and their local engineers, who have been trained on B2P bridge sites, has made it possible to continue working with the municipality and growing the B2P Nicaragua training program with a safe and cost-effective bridge design that ensures that rural Nicaraguan communities can continue building and maintaining footbridges for years to come.
With sponsorship from the municipality of Condega, local labor and materials were used in the construction of the bridge. The rocks came from the riverbed, and the wood for the decking was sourced locally. The strand for the cable suspension was donated, unused scrap from the construction of the Port Mann Bridge in Vancouver. The donation of key structural materials, and sourcing the remainder of the materials locally, made this bridge a sustainable solution for the community.
With over 24 communities of the Greater Condega Area benefiting directly from the new bridge, 19,000 people now have a safe way to cross the Rio Esteli. The Paso Real Suspension Pedestrian Bridge provides safe crossings for students of all ages on their way to and from school, meaning they never miss a day of class due to a raging river. For medical emergencies people can now reach healthcare clinics and sell and buy goods at markets year round.
Avery Louise Bang, CEO