Construction of new Lisbon bridge concerns environmentalists

THE GOVERNMENT has finally chosen a section of Lisbon’s River Tejo between Chelas and Barreiro to construct a third road-rail crossing.

The Portuguese National Engineering Laboratory (LNEC) is to recommend that future negotiations with the Port of Lisbon Authority (APL) take into consideration measures to minimise the environmental impact that constructing a new bridge would have on the river and port activities.

LNEC recommends that the project be “carefully analysed in terms of visual impact and cost”.

According to the engineering laboratory, whose report has been handed over to RAVE, the company set up to develop the TGV high speed rail link into Lisbon, the bill for the bridge and attendant port adaptation works could be 1.7 billion euros.

The bridge is to be concluded by 2013, the date by which Portugal has to complete its high speed rail link between Lisbon and Caia in Spain, under the terms agreed and signed by the Portuguese Minister for Public Works, Mário Lino, and his Spanish counterpart, as announced by the government last week.

The government, basing its decisions on LNEC studies, had chosen the Chelas-Barreiro crossing over the alternative Beato-Montijo crossing option defended by the Portuguese Industrial Confederation (CIP).

The government has until May to conclude an Environmental Impact Study and November to open an international competitive tendering competition for the bridge’s construction.

Until then, various problems will have to be resolved such as issues concerning navigation of deep water ships and impact studies on the city of Lisbon.

The aim is to guarantee that the bridge, which will be constructed at a point known as the Mar da Palha – an area of the Tejo estuary where the river is at its deepest – will not impede the activities of ships entering and leaving the Port of Lisbon and attendant cruise ship terminals.

The construction of the bridge will require the dredging up of tons of industrially contaminated mud in the Tejo in an “extremely complex operation” according to LNEC, involving toxic sediments on the south banks of the river left over from former industries at Barreiro.

The sediment, containing high levels of arsenic, mercury, lead, zinc and cadmium is causing concern among environmental groups such as the Portuguese Nature Protection League (LPN), which fears the disturbed sediment could pollute the river, kill fish and contaminate river fowl.

Under European Union environmental laws, sediment cannot be dumped at sea, as was the case with the Vasco da Gama bridge, but must be treated, dried and deposited in landfill sites.

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