Portimão’s old bridge still awaiting repair

news: Portimão’s old bridge still awaiting repair

TWO STONES from one of the supporting columns of the old bridge in Portimão have moved from their original positions, a situation that first became evident nearly two years ago. Estradas de Portugal (EP), the company responsible for the maintenance of roads and bridges, has guaranteed that the situation does not present a risk to vehicles using the structure, but Portimão Câmara is demanding that action is taken to resolve the problem. The pillar in question is submerged underwater and lies close to the Portimão river bank. The outer stone at either side of the pillar appears to be moving outwards, causing the row to become out of line with the stones directly above. Those who have seen the state of the pillar may agree that it is strangely reminiscent of a game of Jenga, when gaps appear in the structure following each player’s turn.

Surprisingly, the problem is not a new one. Portimão Câmara first reported the worrying condition of the pillar at the end of 2003, when photographs and detailed reports were sent to the Instituto de Estradas de Portugal (IEP), Portugal’s roads institute, to alert them to the need for urgent action. The reply received from IEP explained that a tender would be launched to select a company to carry out the necessary reinforcement work. But, according to Manuel da Luz, Portimão Câmara President, “nothing has been done”.

Old bridge still well used

The old bridge over the River Arade dates back to 1876 and was constructed to provide a link for vehicles and pedestrians between the city of Portimão and the areas of Parchal, Mexilhoeira da Carregação and Ferragudo. Despite its age and the presence of an additional new bridge into the city, it still receives a high daily flow of traffic as it has the advantage of allowing direct access into the centre of Portimão.

National bridge repair programme

falling behind

However, it is not only Portimão Câmara that has been left waiting for repair works to take place. As many as half the number of bridges in Portugal, that have previously been identified as needing urgent repairs, have not yet been fully attended to. Following inspections, a total of 353 bridges were highlighted as requiring attention and only around 40 per cent of the total have been completely repaired up until now. This is the most recent report on the situation, which relates to the programme for the inspection and repair of bridges and viaducts that was launched in 2001. A total of 5,600 bridges were surveyed throughout Portugal, of which 63 were deemed to pose a serious risk.

It has been reported that of the 63 “at risk”, 15 were seen as needing very urgent repairs. It has not been divulged, though, if the old bridge in Portimão appears on this list. According to a report made by António Laranjo, president of EP, projects for 24 per cent of the 63 have already been concluded and works are in progress on many more.

Underwater inspections of 69 bridges are expected to begin this summer, announced Laranjo this week, and will take place between 2005 and 2009.

Major investment

Work included in the renovation programmes, up until 2006, will cost 132 million euros. More than half this amount (75 million) will be spent this year and around 39 million euros is due for investment next year.

As a preventative measure to safeguard the road infrastructures, Laranjo has referred to the functioning of a management system that will permit the carrying out of systematic routine inspections, reporting the state of repair on an annual basis, and major inspections to take place every three to five years. The EP president has assured that all of Portugal’s bridges will be inspected on a regular basis.