The Rio-Antirrio Bridge was opened on August 7, 2004 one week before the opening of the 2004 Summer Olympics in Athens.
Within almost two decades, it changed the economic landscape in Greece. The Rio-Antirrio bridge, which connects the Peloponnese with Central Greece, had the aim of making the transport of passengers and cargo much easier. That has certainly been achieved.
The opening of the bridge was a celebration, with the first people to officially cross it being none other than the Olympic torchbearers of the 2004 Olympics. 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 a 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 one of the longest cable-stay bridges 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.
According to a recent study by the Observatory of Road Networks in Western Greece and the Peloponnese, the construction of the graceful white cable-stay bridge has already resulted in enormous financial benefits. To date, this amount is estimated to be over 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 of 2017 to 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 heading for 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 in the northern region, which has led to a significant rise in land prices. This has given added value to an area that had been largely underdeveloped, attracting investment.
Traffic flows have also benefited immensely from the creation 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 basically been almost completely cut off from the rest of the country.
Rio-Antirrio Bridge is considered an engineering masterpiece
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 waters 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 two hundred 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 immensely to the economy of the country.