When the Rio-Antirrio Bridge was opened on August 7, 2004, one week before the opening of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens, it was predicted that this new connection would change the economic landscape in Greece.
Fifteen years later, one can safely say that, to a large degree, this prediction has become a reality. The Rio-Antirrio bridge, which connects the Peloponnese with Central Greece, had the aim of making the transport of passengers and cargo much easier. And that has certainly been achieved.
The opening of the bridge was a celebration, with the first people officially crossing it none other than the Olympic torchbearers. One member of that group was Otto Rehhagel, the German football coach who had led the Greek national team to their triumph in the Euro 2004 Cup just one month earlier.
The official name of the bridge is the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge, after the nineteenth-century prime minister of Greece who was the first man to envision such a span connecting the Peloponnese with Central Greece. Unfortunately, state finances at the time did not allow for such a large-scale project.
The 2,380-meter (approximately 1.8 mile) long bridge is the longest cable-stay bridge in the entire world. It improves access to and from the Peloponnese, which could previously only be reached by ferry or via the Isthmus of Corinth.
Indeed, since its first year of operation, the bridge recorded 1.2 million additional transits between the town of Rio in the Peloponnese and Antirrio in Central Greece.
According to a study by the Observatory of Road Networks in Western Greece and the Peloponnese, construction of the graceful white cable-stay bridge has already resulted in an enormous financial benefits. To date, this amount is estimated to be approximately 400 million euros.
The experts believe that the total amount of funds the bridge’s construction will bring to the area will be more than one billion euros during the period 2017-2032.
Tourist flows have also improved, which is especially noted with arrivals coming into the area from the north, from the port of Patras. Travelers having destinations in the Ionian Sea islands and areas in Central Greece can now easily and swiftly cross through the central area of the country and back again.
The study also noted that the bridge has already had a positive effect on property values of the northern region, which has led to a significant rise in land prices. This has given added value to an area which had been largely underdeveloped, attracting investment.
Traffic flows have also benefited immensely from the addition of the Charilaos Trikoupis Bridge. It not only connects two major motorways, the Ionian Odos and Olympia Odos, but transport connections between Epirus and Aitoloakarnania have been greatly improved as well.
Before the construction of the new span, Aitoloakarnania had been for practical purposes almost cut off from the rest of the country.
The construction of the imposing cable-stay bridge is widely considered to be an engineering masterpiece, owing to several solutions applied to overcome difficulties caused by its location and the geology of the region.
These difficulties included the especially deep water of the river, the once-unstable underlying ground under the bases of the bridge, seismic activity, the probability of tsunamis, and the expansion of the Gulf of Corinth due to plate tectonics.
The seabed was first reinforced and stabilized by driving 200 hollow steel pipes into the ground beneath each pier. The pier footings themselves were not driven into the seabed; they rest on a bed of gravel meticulously leveled to an even surface (a difficult endeavor at this depth).
During an earthquake, the piers are able to move laterally along the sea floor, with the gravel bed absorbing the energy. The bridge decking is also connected to the pylons using special jacks and dampers designed to absorb any movement.
View the fascinating video below to see all the special features of this unique and beautiful cable-stay bridge, which has already contributed so much to the economy of the country.