Crossing the Ebro: Expo 2008 and the Third Millennium Bridge

Third Millennium Bridge

On 7 June 2008, the Third Millennium Bridge was inaugurated in Zaragoza, Spain, connecting the city centre to the site of Expo 2008, which opened to the public the following week. Spanning 279 metres across the Ebro River, the bridge is one of the largest infrastructure projects that accompanied the Expo, and remains, 10 years later, the largest of its kind in the world.

After 35 months of construction, the bridge’s prominent arch – reaching 25 metres above the deck - created a new addition to Zaragoza’s cityscape, while providing Expo visitors with a brightly lit focal point when returning home in the evening.

It was one of three new bridges built for the Expo, with the other two (Zaha Hadid’s Bridge Pavilion and the Volunteers’ walkway) both being pedestrian-only.

Third Millennium Bridge at night

While serving its main purpose as an important element of urban infrastructure, the bridge is also a representative symbol of Expo 2008 and its theme “Water and Sustainable Development”. Consistent with the Expo’s sustainable urban renewal agenda, its designer Juan José Arenas, created a suspension bridge without pillars in order to avoid interfering with the natural flow of the river. In this way, its design is an “act of respect” for the river, by at no point coming into contact with the water.

The 24,000-tonne concrete bowstring bridge remains a case study in engineering and bridge design for its slenderness and single span, made possible due to its use of high-performance white concrete. Winning a fib Award in 2010 and a Gustave Magnel medal, the bridge has also had a positive impact on the city’s traffic, reducing congestion on neighbouring bridges by 37%. Beyond this, it provides residents with easy pedestrian access to Zaragoza’s high-speed railway station and bus station.

Now at ten years old, the Third Millennium Bridge is still a modern symbol of Zaragoza and a wonder of civil engineering. Having become part of the daily life of the city, the impressive structure forms a key part of Expo 2008’s physical legacy.

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