Belgrade’s fortress is the city’s most iconic historic symbol, and offers stunning views over the old centre and the surrounding river valleys. However, the Serbian capital’s picturesque location – right at the confluence of the Danube and Sava rivers – hides a major problem for its citizens: it isn’t easy to navigate through or even access the city.
Only two road bridges lead from one side of the Sava to the other and their capacity is clearly overstretched. This lack of connections has had a deep impact on the lives of the busy people of Belgrade. Congested roads stretch the nerves of its many car owners; the resulting traffic noise and fumes test those of everyone else.
A record breaking bridge
The EBRD provided a €130 million loan to help the City of Belgrade construct the newly-opened Ada Bridge, which is the largest cable bridge supported by a single pylon in the world. With its 200-metre tall needle-shaped pylon in the middle, the asymmetrical structure has already become a landmark feature of the Serbian capital, representing a modern international city and greeting residents and visitors alike.
The sheer dimensions of the bridge are impressive: it extends 376m over the Sava River with a bridge deck of 954m in length, including the approach roads. Its main span was constructed with a total of 8,600 tons of bridge construction steel and is supported by 80 stay cables made out of a further 1,280 tons of steel.
The resulting super-structure featured on Discovery Channel’s Extreme Engineering (aka Build it Bigger in the US) as one of the series’ main architectural and engineering wonders of the world, alongside Boston’s ambitious “Big Dig”, the proposed Panama Canal expansion and Hong Kong’s airport built 16 miles out to sea.
Modernising Belgrade’s transport
Until now, the different parts of the Serbian capital had been relatively isolated. The historic attractions of the city centre are on one side of the Sava River while New Belgrade with its many business headquarters and an important residential area lies on the other side.
“The Gazela Bridge and, to a minor extent, the Brankov Bridge were the only two options for motorists to cross the river,” says Meran Lukic, EBRD Associate Banker, Municipal & Environmental Infrastructure team. “The new bridge over the Sava will considerably improve inner city transport.”
Apart from a three-lane motorway and a pedestrian and cycle lane on each side, the bridge also incorporates a two-track rail line in the middle. This will be used by trams at first, but can potentially also accommodate some form of higher capacity urban rail should the city choose such an option. Finally, three lifts in the middle of the bridge will help pedestrians and cyclists to access the recreational areas on Ada Ciganlija Island, situated in the middle of the river.
“The construction of the new bridge is part of a larger modernisation of the road network in Serbia’s capital,” says Hildegard Gacek, EBRD Director for Serbia. “For this, the EBRD teamed up with the European Investment Bank (EIB), which lent an additional €160 million to finance the access roads leading to the bridge. The bridge, which is currently the biggest viaduct in the Balkans, is part of the city’s ambitious plan to build an inner city ring road.”
Connecting the city, connecting people
The new Ada Bridge also has important historic and symbolic value, as it was the first one to be built in Belgrade in the last 40 years. A bridge open day turned out a huge success in the summer of 2011, with more than 60,000 people stepping onto the structure.
At the official opening on 1 January, thousands of citizens rushed to cross the new bridge whilst the opposite direction of New Belgrade was opened to vehicle traffic. The bridge has been a major attraction since the start of the new year, filling up with cars and people excited to set foot on their new city landmark.
“My girlfriend lives on the other side of the bridge,” says Marko, a young local resident. “In the past, it could take us more than half an hour to meet although we were only a few hundred metres away from each other. With the new bridge, this time will now be reduced to a few minutes.”
Connecting people is only one of many positive aspects of the Ada Bridge. The new traffic route will also substantially facilitate national and international trade and the transport of goods over the Sava River.
The new connection between the different parts of the city will also have a positive impact on the local environment by significantly reducing traffic congestion as well as noise and air pollution.
Pedestrians and cyclists will also have direct and easy access to Ada Ciganlija Island, Belgrade’s main recreational area, through the lifts on the bridge. All these factors will contribute to improving the quality of life in the Serbian capital in the new year.