Crouched over the River Tagus like a stick insect, the elegant spines of the Vasco da Gama Bridge unite Lisbon’s modernistic Parque das Nações with Samouco as it curves across 17.2 km (10.7 miles) east of the city center. This road bridge was constructed to ease commuter congestion when the 25th of April Bridge (Ponte 25 de Abril) was no longer able to cope with traffic volume. Costing nearly US $1 billion, it was designed by a consortium of architects and more than 3,000 workers were involved in its construction, which took 18 months. The bridge was completed in 1998 in the nick of time for Portugal’s Expo98.
When constructed, this was Europe’s longest cable-stayed bridge, named after Portugal’s fabled explorer Vasco da Gama, who ventured across uncharted seas to discover India in 1498. Its elegant side spans soar 203 meters (666 feet) into the air and as Lisbon is located in a zone of seismic activity, the foundations of the bridge are buried more than 95 meters (312 feet) into the bedrock and is designed to withstand an earthquake more than four times more powerful than the one in 1755 that virtually destroyed the city. The bridge has six lanes of traffic and services around 50,000 vehicles daily; it was designed to be extended whenever necessary in the future.