Papagayo Bridge

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Papagayo Bridge
Puente Papagayo
Tierra Colorada, Guerrero, Mexico
394 feet high / 120 meters high
463 foot span / 141 meter span


If measured to the old river level, the Papagayo fin back bridge is the second highest structure on the México City-Acapulco Highway. Built to connect Mexico City to the vacation and resort town of Acapulco on the Pacific Ocean, the 163 mile (263 km) long highway was one of Mexico’s first major toll roads and was a forerunner to the even more spectacular Durango-Mazatlán highway scheduled to open in 2012.

Known as the Autopista del Sol, Mexico’s 4-lane “Highway of the Sun” is a museum of Mexican bridge engineering. In addition to Papagayo, there are four other high bridges along the route, all cable stayed bridges with H-frame towers. Mezcala is the largest and highest with 3 towers and a deck height of 502 feet (153 mtrs). Puente Quetzalapa is a conventional two tower design while two single tower bridges cross the Barranca El Cañon and El Zapote.

Probably the most unusual of all the bridges on the highway is the “fin back” bridge over the Papagayo River and reservoir. Mexico has become fond of the beam bridge style known as the “fin back”. A prestressed beam bridge with a highly variable depth of prestressing, the fin back design is unique for having the internal cables at their highest as they pass over the piers, enclosed in a wall or “fin” of concrete. The double hump profile may look similar to a cable stayed or extradosed bridge but the engineering has more in common with a beam bridge. Many consider the lower profile to be more attractive than a conventional prestressed beam bridge.

The first fin back bridge was built in Nuremberg, Germany for a commuter railway in 1969. In the U.S., the only one is the 1987-built Barton Creek bridge near Austin, Texas with a main span of 340 feet (103.5 mtrs). Mexico has become fond of the bridge type and it was used again in 2005 on the Texas-sized Texcapa bridge on the still unfinished México City-Tuxpan highway. Also planned for this highway is a monstrous crossing of the San Marcos river with two large fin back spans and a central pier of more than 715 feet (218 mtrs) in height that will become the second highest in the world after the Millau Viaduct in France.

Papagayo Bridge Bridge Elevation